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As President of the Bronte Society, I have been 
asked — for my Jast appearance in that honourable 
place ! — to write a few words of Preface to this 
*' Centenary Memorial " of Charlotte Bronte. In 
my own paper, which was read at Bradford this 
spring, and is printed in these pages, I have said 
all that the reader of this book will want to hear 
from myself on its ever-enthralling subject. But 
there remains for me the pleasant task of pointing 
such a reader to the variety of Bronte knowledge 
and criticism which the other essays in this volume 
contain. They are no drilled chorus, but the 
fresh impressions and the first-hand research of 
competent writers who have spoken their minds 
both with love and courage. Very different judg- 
ments will be found in them on very important 
points, such as the relative rank of the two 
great sisters, or of Charlotte Bronte's three novels, 
inter se^ or of her relation to her contemporaries. 
This seems to me all to the good. It is by 


difference that we all think ; and " fret our minds 
to an intenser play." 

But what is unanimous, is not so much the 
warm praise of Charlotte Bronte, in which this 
band of writers, from their various points of 
view, ultimately agree, as the testimony they bear 
to the feeling she still stirs in us — to the delight 
she still gives to this later generation, after more 
than half a century. The security of her fame, 
we see, is yearly greater, as her star rises surely 
and steadily to its place in the nineteenth-century 
heaven. Fluctuations of opinion there have been, 
and must always be, in the case of those who, like 
the Brontes, challenge opinion, and, so to speak, 
"take it by force." But it seems to me that the 
fluctuations are over, and the verdict given. And 
the members of the Bronte Society, during the last 
twenty years, have certainly helped to make it 
what it is. Their unworthy President bids them 
now a grateful farewell. 

September, 1917. 




Foreword. By Mrs. Humphry Ward . . 5 

Introduction . . . . .11 

Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte. By 

Mrs. Humphry Ward . . . • * 3 

A Word on Charlotte Bronte. By Edmund 

Gossey C.B. . . . . '39 

Charlotte Bronte as a Romantic. By G. K. 

Chesterton . . . . '47 

Charlotte Bronte : A Personal Sketch. By 

Arthur C. Benson . . . '55 

Centenary Address at Haworth. By the 

Right Rev. Bishop Welldon . . '63 

Charlotte Bronte in Brussels. By M. H. 

Spielmann . . . . .81 

Story of the Bronte Society. By H E. Wroot 1 1 1 

The Place of Charlotte Bronte in Nine- 
teenth Century Fiction. By the late Dr. 
Richard Garnett . . . '149 



Charlotte and Emily Bronte : A Comparison 
AND A Contrast. By Professor C. E. 
Faughan, M.A, . . . • ^73 

Charlotte Bronte in London. 5v 5/V 5/Wn^v 

Lee^ LL.D. ..... 207 

The Spirit of the Moors. By Halliwell 

Sutcliffe ..... 249 

The Brontes as Artists and Prophets. By 

y. K. Snoivden .... 285 

A Bronte Itinerary. By Butler Wood . • 3^1 

Index ...... 327 



Portrait of Charlotte Bronte . Frontispiece 

Facing Page 

Haworth Parsonage . . . .16 

Portrait of Mrs. Gaskell . . '38 

Haworth Church . . .62 

Portrait of Rev. A. B, Nicholls . . 72 
Facsimile of Circular issued by the Bronte 

Sisters in 1844 • • • .no 

"Black Bull" Inn, Haworth . . .128 

Dog "Floss" . . , . 132 

(From JVater-Cokur Drawing iy C. Bronte) 

Hathersage ..... 140 

Bronte Birthplace, Thornton . .160 

Bronte Waterfall, Haworth Moor . . 168 

Quarries on Haworth Moor . , page 172 

The Rydings, Birstall . Facing p. 176 

Oakwell Hall, Birstall . . .176 

Moorseats, Hathersage . . . 192 



Facing Page 

Portrait of Mr. George Smith . . 208 

PoNDEN House (Thrushcross Grange) . . 224 

On Ha worth Moor .... 248 

Dog "Keeper" ..... 256 
{From Water-Colour Drawing by E. Brente) 

Village of Stanbury .... 272 

The Withins (Wuthering Heights) . . 272 

Portrait of the Rev. Patrick Bronte . 280 

Portrait of Miss Ellen Nussey . . 280 

Haworth from the Moor Edge . .288 

Haworth Church .... 288 

View from Haworth Moor . . . 304 

Foot-bridge near Bronte Waterfall . 304 

Haworth from the P2ast . . • 3H 


The Haworth Country . . .316 

The "Shirley" Country . . 318 

KiRKBY Lonsdale and Cowan Bridge . 320 



When the Bronte Society discussed the question of 
celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Charlotte 
Bronte's birthday it was felt that the occasion 
should b^ marked by something of a more 
permanent nature than the public function which 
had been arranged to be held at Haworth, and 
it was therefore decided to prepare for publication 
a volume which should serve as a literary souvenir 
of the Centenary year. Steps were thereupon 
immediately taken to this end, and thanks to the 
willing co-operation of some writers of eminence 
who have notable sympathy with the objects of 
the Society, it has been made possible to bring the 
present work before the public. 

In addition to contributions written specially 
for the occasion, a selection has been made from 
the Transactions of the Society of those articles 
which appear to be appropriate to the purpose of 
the volume. They include appreciations by the 
late Dr. Richard Garnett, Sir Sidney Lee, Prof. 



C. E. Vaughan, Halliwell Sutcliffe, and J. Keighley 
Snowden, and are included because it is felt 
that they are well worthy of a more extended 
publicity than it was possible to give them in the 
limited issue of the Transactions of the Society. 

Amongst the illustrations will be found a fac- 
simile of the circular issued by the Bronte sisters 
when contemplating the formation of a Boarding 
School at the Haworth Parsonage in 1844. It 
is reproduced from the only known leaflet now 
existing, which is preserved in the Haworth 

The Council of the Society desire to record 
their gratitude to Mr. A. C. Benson, Master of 
Magdalene College, Cambridge, Mr. M. H. 
Spielmann, Mr. Edmund Gosse, Mr. G. K. 
Chesterton, Bishop Welldon, Sir Sidney Lee, 
Mr. J. Keighley Snowden, Mr. Halliwell Sut- 
cliffe, Prof C. E. Vaughan, and Mr. H. E. 
Wroot, for the help they have generously ren- 
dered ; to the Editor of The Times for permission 
given to reprint Mr. Spielmann's article on 
" Charlotte Bronte in Brussels ; " to Mr. M. E. 
Hartley, of Bradford, for preparing the subject 
index ; to Mr. Harry H. Wood, for preparing 
the maps, and to the President of the Society, 
Mrs. Humphry Ward, for writing a foreword 
to the volume and for permission to include 
her Centenary Address. 






An Address delivered bv Mrs. Humphry Ward to the 
Bronte Society, at Bradford, Friday, March 30, 19 17. 

A HUNDRED years ago last April, a third daughter 
— Charlotte — was born to the Rev. Patrick 
Bronte and Maria Bronte, his wife, at the 
Yorkshire village of Thornton, in the parish of 
Bradford. The little Charlotte's elder sisters 
Maria and Elizabeth were still babies them- 
selves when she appeared, and when not quite 
four years later the whole family migrated to 
Haworth, near Keighley, and took up their 
residence in the small parsonage house, on the 
edge of a Yorkshire moor, which is now so 
famous in the history of literature, there were 
six children, of whom the eldest was not much 
more than six years old. Their gentle, refined 
mother, worn-out perhaps by child-bearing, died 
the year after the move, and the six wonderful 
children were left motherless. 

Was there ever such a brood ! Think of 


Charlotte BrontS : a Centenary Memorial 

them in that first year at Haworth ! Their 
mother, whom they rarely saw, was dying; 
their father was not fond of children, and 
lived shut up in his study. Maria, aged seven, 
was the mother and teacher of the rest. She 
would shut herself up with a newspaper, in the 
little fireless room upstairs which was called the 
"children's study" — there was no nursery in 
that melancholy house ! — and would be able to 
tell the others all kinds of things when she 
came out, about politics and Parliament, about 
" the Duke," Charlotte's particular hero, and 
Bonaparte, the Duke's vanquished foe, now safely 
caged in St. Helena. 

When the children went for a walk, they went 
out all six together, on the moor behind the 
house, alone, hand in hand, the elder ones help- 
ing the babies. They never made a noise ; their 
happiest hours were spent whispering to each 
other in the firelight on winter evenings ; some- 
how they all learnt to read — how, it is not 
recorded ; and books, the moors, and each other 
sufficed them. They had no child friends, 
no children's books, no pretty frocks, no 
children's parties. Presently, their father, who 
never walked with them, or had a meal with 
them, began to realize they were not like other 
children ; and we have the well-known story of 
his examination of them, when the eldest was 
ten and the youngest four. He made each 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

child wear a mask in turn and speak through 
the mask, so as to give it courage. Anne, the 
baby, was asked what a child like her most 
wanted. She answered, Mr. Bronte says — is it 
quite credible ? — " Age and experience." While 
the eldest, Maria, aged ten, when asked what was 
the best mode of spending time, replied : — " By 
laying it out in preparation for a happy eternity." 
A year later, the child who gave that answer was 
dead, after that appalling year at the Cowan 
Bridge School, of which Mrs. Gaskell gives an 
account which has never been substantially shaken. 
Her father left it on record that, long before 
she died, he could talk to her about any leading 
topic of the day, as though she were a grown 

But still, she died, poor little motherless 
mother ! — and her younger sister, Elizabeth, also 
died. Mercifully Charlotte and Emily were 
rescued from Cowan Bridge in time, and then 
for nearly live years the marvellous children 
were happy together in their own way. The 
sisters loved each other passionately ; they were 
proud of their only brother, who was taught 
by his father and kept at home ; they were not 
much interfered with by their aunt, who had 
come to keep the house ; they read the Bible, 
Shakespeare, Bunyan, Addison, Johnson, Sheridan, 
Cowper, for the past ; Scott, Byron, Coleridge, 
Wordsworth, Southey, for the moderns, with 

17 » 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Blackwood' i Magazine and a full supply of 
newspapers, both Whig and Tory. They were 
all politicians and desperate Tories ; and the 
record of what they wrote — the plays and poems 
and miscellaneous tales and articles, in the " little 
writing," now so eagerly sought for by the 
autograph collector, which most of us can only 
read with a magnifying glass — before Charlotte, the 
eldest, was fourteen, is more amazing even than 
the stories of wonder-children in Evelyn's Diary^ 
or John Stuart Mill's recollections of his own 
performances under the age of five. The mere 
list of Charlotte's childish works, in twenty-two 
MS. volumes, occupies a page and a half of 
Mrs. Gaskell's biography. 

Yet when Charlotte went to Roehead School, 
at fourteen, she seemed at first so ignorant — it 
was grammar and geography she was tested in — 
that a kind schoolmistress told her pityingly she 
must be placed with the little ones. Charlotte, 
however, cried so much that a chance was given 
her among the bigger girls. And then — stupe- 
faction ! — the child who knew no grammar was 
found to be steeped in literature and history. 

'* She looked a little old woman " — said the 
schoolfellow, Mary Taylor, writing to Mrs. 
Gaskell ; — " so short-sighted that she always 
appeared to be seeking something, and moving 
her head from side to side to catch a sight of 
it. She was very shy and nervous, and spoke 


Some 'i ho lights on Charlotte Brontt' 

with a strong Irish accent. We thought her 
very ignorant ! But then she would confound us 
by knowing things that were out of our range 
altogether ! " She told stories out of a "magazine" 
written by herself and her sisters. Once her 
schoolfellows made her try to play some ball 
game with them. She tried, but she could not 
see the ball, so they " put her out." It was 
pleasanter, she said, to stand under the trees 
in the playground and watch the shadows and 
the sky. Sometimes she would talk politics 
eagerly ; and her Radical schoolfellows, reflecting 
the opinions of Radical homes, found it was of 
no use to argue with Charlotte about the Duke 
of Wellington (the Reform Bill of '32 was just 
passing) — for she knew everything about him, 
and " we knew nothing." Her talent for story- 
telling was endless. She and her sisters called 
it "making out." The whole family used to 
" ' make out ' histories," says Mary Taylor again, 
" and invent characters and events. She picked 
up every scrap of information concerning paint- 
ing, sculpture, poetry, music, etc., as if it were 
gold. She never lost a moment of time ! She 
knew she must provide for herself." 

Yet, except for the year at Cowan Bridge, 
Charlotte's childhood was not unhappy. 

The power which overshadowed it, as also 
that of her sisters, brought its own rewards. They 
were themselves well aware of its nature. Emily 


charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

in particular has paid it immortal homage. 
Again and again in those strange poems, written 
in the simplest and commonest of metres, 
scarcely one of which is without its touch of 
genius, while half a dozen belong to the main 
poetic treasure of our race, Emily points to the 
force which made the bare, spartan life of the 
bleak parsonage house a life of happiness, often 
of joyous excitement, to the three sisters, so 
long as they had each other to cling to, and 
before Bran well's decadence began. 

" Silent is the house ; all are laid asleep : 
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep, 
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze 
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends 
. . . the groaning trees. 
Burn then little lamp ; glimmer straight and clear. — 
Hush ! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air; 
He for whom I wait thus ever comes to me ; 
Strange Power ! I trust thy might ; trust thou my con- 

What was the " Strange Power " that Emily 
thus invokes } Simply Imagination — Poetry, 
" making out." Emily was possessed by it ; 
so in a more normal degree was Charlotte, 
and even the gentle and timid Anne. 

In Emily, it was mingled first with a pas- 
sionate love of home and country, and then 
with ideas of violence and terror, partly sug- 
gested to her by books — the German Romantics 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

whom she read at Brussels, or in translations 
printed in Blackwood's Magazine, which came 
regularly to the parsonage — and partly by her 
own wild moors, and what she guessed of the 
life around her, divining it from a face here, 
and a fragment of talk there, seeing it all under 
a light of storm, lit from the fire of her own 
nature. It is probable, I think, that the quick- 
ened pulse of phthisis, of which she died, may 
have had something to do with the peculiar 
intensity, the self-devouring strength, of Emily's 
genius. I have myself watched the effect of 
the continuous fever of phthisis on a literary 
gift, in the case of a great historian ; there is 
no doubt that it lent an added fire and energy 
to his work ; and I have often thought that the 
same cause partly conditioned Emily Bronte's 
poetic gift, and partly explains the astonishing 
glow and concentration of IVuthering Heights. 

But it was only an intensifying cause. With 
Charlotte, imagination was a cradle gift no less 
than with Emily ; and Anne, in frailer, feebler 
measure, was played on by the same power. 

" The faculty of imagination, " writes Char- 
lotte to Mr. Williams, " lifted me when I was 
sinking, three months ago " (that is, after the death 
of her sister Anne) ; *' its active exercise has kept 
my head above water since ! " 

And it was imagination of a strong racial 
type. Charlotte at school, says Mary Taylor, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

spoke with a strong Irish accent. It should 
never indeed be forgotten that the Brontes were 
Irish on their father's side, and Cornish on 
their mother's. That is to say, they were 
Celtic by race, and they inherited the Celtic 

** Never laugh at us Celts ! " said Ernest Renan, 
himself a Breton ; — "we shall not build the Par- 
thenon — marble is not our affair. But we know 
how to seize upon the heart and soul ; we have 
a power of piercing which belongs only to us. 
We plunge our hands into the entrails of man 
and bring them out, like the witches in Macbeth^ 
full of the secrets of the infinite. We have no 
turn for practical life, for chaffering and bar- 
gaining. We are difficult to move. We die 
if you tear us from home. In the heart of our 
race there is a perpetual spring of madness. 
Fairy-land is our domain, the fairy-land that 
only pure lips and faithful hearts can enter ! " 

How many of these famous phrases suit the 
Brontes ! " We shall not build the Parthenon ! " 
No one need look for classical perfection in the 
Brontes. There is a morbid and feverish in- 
equality in much of Charlotte's work, which drew 
down upon her the critics of her own day, and 
made Edward Fitzgerald call her " the Mistress 
of the Disagreeable." The structure, the build- 
ing, both of Shirley and Villette break every 
rule ; and Charlotte, when invited by George 


Some Thoughts ofi Charlotte Bronte 

Henry Lewes to consider the mild wisdom 
and artistic perfection of Jane Austen, turned 
almost angrily away. Charlotte and Emily 
are Romantics through and through, and the 
Celts in history and literature are the eternal 
Romantics. For they are not thinking — striv- 
ing towards — an artistic whole, in which feel- 
ing, poetry, passion, shall be all brought into 
bondage to a shaping and fastidious instinct, 
which is, in truth, the ultimate thing. They 
are grasping at poetry and passion for their own 
salces, careless what happens, so long as they 
can exercise the piercing and arresting power 
they are conscious of possessing. 

Again : " In the heart of our race there rises," 
says Renan, '* a spring of madness." And there 
is a note of madness in the Bronte genius ; con- 
spicuously in Emily, but to be heard now and 
then even in Charlotte. The wonderful chapter in 
Villette describing Lucy Snowe, lonely, miserable, 
and delirious, when she is left forsaken in the 
pensionnat through the summer holidays, has in 
it something non-sane ; one hears through it 
the footfall of one who has known the border- 
lands of the mind, where dream and melancholy 
rule, where, for the time, responsibility and 
reflection die. The genius of the poet and 
rhapsodist — and it is essentially to that category 
that the Bronte genius belongs — has always been 
held, as we know, to involve an element of 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

wildness, of something which marks it from the 
ordinary gifts of men — 

Faster, faster, 

Oh Circe, goddess, 

Let the wild thronging train. 

The bright procession of eddying forms, 

Sweep through my soul ! 

It was in a mood — a state — not far distant from 
this that Charlotte Bronte wrote the astonishing 
pages at the end of Villette^ where Lucy Snowe 
wanders through the midnight Brussels en fete^ 
unknown, unrecognized — save for that one sharp 
glance from the eyes of Dr. John — herself played 
on by all the various impressions of night, crowd, 
colour, fire, and by the different passions and 
interests of the persons she sees ; passing through 
them like the very spirit of romance, and render- 
ing scenes and characters in a marvellous language 
— rich, flowing, now wildly and satirically gay, 
now grave and quiet like the old Flemish streets 
into which she turns from the noise and illumina- 
tion of the park — just as Schumann or Brahms 
would have rendered them in music. 

It is indeed this quality of poetry, sometimes 
piercingly plaintive and touching, at others grim 
and fiery, with interludes of extravagance or gro- 
tesque, that establishes the claim of Charlotte and 
Emily Bronte to their high place in literature. 
Their claim, of course, is the Romantic claim 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

— the claim of George Sand and Victor Hugo, 
the claim of Coleridge, and in the main the claim 
of Byron. But it was specially conditioned in 
their case first by the Irish — the Celtic — strain of 
blood ; and secondly by a power of observation, 
shrewd or ironic, which is just as characteristic 
of the Celt as the power of poetry, the touch 
of madness, the melancholy, the note of fairy- 
land — which Renan claims for his race. Look, 
for instance, at the work of J. M. Synge, or at some 
of the verse of the most modern Irish poets. 
You will find in it exactly the mingling of these 
two elements ; poetry — that is, the sense of 
mystery and beauty in the world ; together with 
an eager interest in the human reality, often in 
its most sordid and trivial aspects, which is 
subordinate, indeed, to the poetic power, but 
never fails in the end to bring that power to 
the test of truth, even to find a puckish delight 
in doing so. Charlotte, for instance, is eloquent 
in praise of " observation " — she abhors senti- 
mentalism. Nevertheless, when you present her 
with a realist like Jane Austen, she recoils. And 
she would certainly have recoiled still further 
from the realists of to-day. She would have 
found nothing, I believe, to please her in Clay- 
hanger or Kips. The detail in her novels, good 
or bad, is always subordinate to the " strange 
power " whom Emilv invoked, to whom Char- 
lotte turned when she was " sinking " under grief. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

The school detail, for instance, in Jane Eyre^ the 
curates and the Yorkes in Shirley ; and all that 
marvellous detail in Villette which has for ever 
preserved, in its very habit as it lived, that pen- 
sionnat of Madame Beck's in the Rue Fossette : — 
one may look upon it all as a good illustration of 
a saying of Goethe's. In one of his talks with 
Eckermann he says that the rarest and best kind 
of imagination is that which spends itself on the 
truth near at hand. Many writers, he says, with 
direct reference to the monsters and marvels of the 
German Romantic movement, prefer to write of 
strange countries and times, and things they know 
nothing about, and absurdly believe that they 
cultivate their imagination by doing so. The 
master in poetry or fiction is he who can give 
significance and beauty to the simplest incidents 
of the life he knows. This is the " truth em- 
bodied in a tale " which conquers the world. 
But the whole question is as to the degree in 
which the poetic faculty can transform and trans- 
mute the detail it takes from reality. 

Emily Bronte possessed the power of trans- 
mutation to a supreme degree. In spite of the 
apparent realism of Wuthering Heights^ its harsh 
or brutal elements, it is passionate poetry — though 
without a trace of " passion " in the ordinary 
sense — from first to last. Charlotte possessed the 
transmuting power less perfectly than Emily. But 
Villette is the supreme example of it in her. All 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Brontt 

this small detail of a girl's school, of its activities 
and ambitions, of the persons living in it, and the 
forces acting upon them, will live when half the 
books and writers we are accustomed to admire 
in this generation are wholly forgotten. The race 
is not to the clever — or the voluble — or the in- 
dustrious — or the ingenious. When nobody ever 
wants to look at The New Machiavelli again, 
still less at Anne Veronica^ Villette will be read 
and loved. Why } Not, of course, because of 
its particular detail as compared with any other, 
but because of the poetry and personality that 
hold the detail, like the sunny water in which the 
river-weeds sway transfigured. That " strange 
power " which Emily invoked has touched it and 
given it immortality. 

But Charlotte was not always so happy in her 
dealing with detail. The detail of the country 
house scenes in Jane Eyre is extravagant and 
absurd — a little vulgar besides. The clerical 
detail of Shirley leaves me uncomfortable and 
unconvinced. I wish that Charlotte had not, as 
she confessed to Mr. Williams, photographed the 
three curates from the life. They have the faults 
of photography, in its cruder stages. They are 
not transmuted ; they remain raw and clumsy. 
And that being so, the magic of art having failed 
them, the moral question raises its head, the ques- 
tion of justification ; and one remembers perhaps, 
with discomfort, a letter printed by Mr. Shorter, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

in which an old friend of Mr. James W. Smith, 
the original of the Rev. Peter Malone — himself 
the little Sweeting of the novel — denounces Char- 
lotte Bronte's " photograph " of Peter Malone 
as " false and cruel." 

The moral question may also be raised with 
regard to Villette. It is admitted that Madame 
Heger was the original of Madame Beck. But 
Madame Heger had shown Charlotte Bronte 
much kindness, and she was so justly hurt by 
the portrait of Madame Beck that when Mrs. 
Gaskell went over to Brussels in search of 
material for her famous Life^ Madame Heger 
refused to see her. And yet, in time, you have 
the Heger family, as it seems to me, recognizing, 
with a personal magnanimity which is dependent 
on a keen sense of art and literature, that Villette 
is a wonderful book, that it is quite possible to 
vindicate kind and motherly Madame Heger 
from Charlotte Bronte's misjudgment of the real 
woman — but that Villelte without Madame Beck 
would have been a shorn masterpiece. So that 
artistically Charlotte Bronte is justified. That is 
to say — thinking of literature — we cannot regret 
it. For — " qui veut la fin, veut les moyens." 

But where the end — of artistic fusion — has not 
been reached, where the material taken from life 
remains crude, where the breath of the " maker " 
has not passed upon it, there the poet and the 
story-teller becomes again an ordinary person to 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Brotite 

be judged by ordinary rules ; and although 
Madame Beck is triumphant, the curates in Shirley 
may be — at any rate partially — wished away ! 

Imagination, then — Celtic imagination- — with its 
head in the clouds, its heart on fire, its hands full 
of treasures gathered from the common earth, and 
its feet walking in and loving the wilder, lone- 
lier paths of life — it is so we must conceive 
Charlotte's greatest gift. She is a dreamer who 
observes, who is always observing ; and she lives 
precisely because of the mingling of these two 
strains in her — the power of poetry and the power 
of bringing the poetic faculty to bear on the truth 
nearest her, the facts of her own daily life. " I 
have seen so little," she complains once or twice. 
But what she has made of that little ! Beside 
Villette^ a novel of a girls' school, how poor and 
ephemeral — already — do the novels look which 
are half journalism — that is, either rhetoric, or 
information, poured out for other ends than the 
creative, the poetic end, like The New Machia- 
velliy which I have already quoted ; or the novels 
which rest on an elaborate " documentation," like 
Zola's Lourdes. Poetry, truth, feeling ; and a 
passion which is of the heart, not of the senses — 
these are Charlotte's secrets. They are simple, 
but they are not to be had by everybody for the 
asking. Loti in the Pkheur d'Islande — Barrie 
in The Window in Thrums — many Russians in 
many books — Victor Hugo in much of Les 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Misirables — George Sand in her Berri stories 
and in large sections of Consuelo — they, with 
many differences, stand in the same literary rank ; 
they walk the same halls in the " House of 
Fame " with the Brontes. 

There are, of course, other types and voices in 
the House of Fame ; but to this race of singers 
and makers at least the golden gates are always 
open ; to the passionate, the pure in heart, the 

Well, we have claimed for Charlotte Bronte, the 
artist, imagination, truth, and power. It is one 
of the strongest grounds of her immortality that 
she was also a loving, faithful, suffering woman, 
with a personal story which, thanks to Mrs. 
Gaskell's Life^ will never cease to touch the hearts 
of English folk while literature lasts. That best 
of biographies was given me when I was seven- 
teen by a dear kinswoman — Matthew Arnold's 
youngest sister — now one of the few survivors 
who can remember the living Charlotte ; and I 
vividly recollect its effect upon me. The story 
of the gifted children in the small grim York- 
shire parsonage, with its graveyard in front and 
its moors behind ; their books, their plays, their 
life in dream worlds of their own, more real to 
them than the village world outside : — I knew it 
once by heart. I could see the parlour in the 
firelight, with the three whispering to each other ; 
I could hear Martha and Tabby, their two maids, 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

in the kitchen. The long village street, the high 
moors behind the parsonage, the night winds 
blowing over them, the glory of the heather in 
summer, and the snow that covered them in 
winter ; they were all familiar to me through 
Mrs. Gaskell's art — as to many others — before 
ever I set eyes on the real Haworth. And to 
one who had been from her childhood scribbling 
on her own account there was even greater fas- 
cination in the story of the memorable years — 
1846 and 1847 — which saw the publication of the 
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, of Jane 
Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The sudden journey 
of the two sisters to London ; their meeting with 
their astonished publisher, to whom their arrival 
first disclosed the identity of Currer Bell, the 
supposed male author of Jane Eyre — that book 
of which all the world was talking — with the 
shy, plainly dressed, tiny creature who, with sup- 
pressed excitement, put his own letter received 
from him in Yorkshire the day before into his 
hands as her credential : this too was a tale of 
which I knew every turn. And a year after the 
book was given me, I remember staying with a 
friend in Brunswick Square and dragging her 
out at night, to find Paternoster Row and the 
site at least of the Chapter Coffee House. I had 
never been in the City before, and I remember 
the thrill of the deserted streets, the strong lights 
and shades, the great dome hovering darkly over- 


charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

head, the darkness and silence of Paternoster 
Row and Amen Corner ; then Fleet Street, with 
its illuminated newspaper offices ; and, brooding 
over it all, the sense of history, and of the 
"mighty heart" of London, "lying still." 

J little thought then that twenty years later 
I should myself be in daily communication, as 
an author, with the same Mr. George Smith in 
whose hands, on July i6, 1848, Charlotte Bronte 
had placed his own letter as the proof of her 
identity. I can never be grateful enough to 
fortune that " Dr. John " became my constant 
and generous friend, as he had been Charlotte 
Bronte's. When I first knew him in 1886, he 
was no longer indeed the " tall young man " of 
twenty-three whom Charlotte described in her 
letters from London. But he was still in every 
other respect the same man whose quick intel- 
ligence discovered the Bronte genius ; whose 
endless kindness of heart and knowledge of the 
resources of life and science might well, had she 
but known him a few years earlier, have enabled 
Charlotte to save her sisters from premature 
death. When I made acquaintance with him 
he was over sixty, with a full and varied life 
behind him ; the publisher of Thackeray and 
Matthew Arnold, of Trollope, Huxley, the 
Brownings, Leslie Stephen, and a score of others. 
The qualities that Charlotte Bronte knew and 
described in the picture of Graham Bretton, 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

who becomes the " Dr. John " of Villettey were 
all there, undlmmed. The help of them was fully 
given to me through fourteen years of friendship, 
and I shall cherish while I live the memory of 
"Dr. John." 

We often talked of Charlotte Bronte, and he 
spoke once to me, with a twinkle of humour, of 
the legend that he had proposed to her. Charlotte 
herself, of course, disposes of the notion, to begin 
with. She writes to Ellen Nussey that her young 
publisher and she " understand each other very 
well, and respect each other very sincerely. We 
both know the wide breach time has made 
between us ; we do not embarrass each other, 
or very rarely ; my six or eight years of seniority, 
to say nothing of the lack of all pretension to 
beauty, are a perfect safeguard." The "tall young 
man," like other tall young men, was indeed — as 
Miss Bronte guessed — very susceptible to beauty. 
The wife whom Charlotte Bronte did not live 
long enough to see, to whom, all her life, George 
Smith was blessing and sunshine, was beautiful 
even as I remember her last, in the year of the 
outbreak of war, 1914, when she was over eighty. 
But it was George Smith's gift for friendship — 
true, faithful friendship — which marked him out 
from others. Charlotte Bronte's short, sad life 
was made the happier by it in a score of ways ; 
and I, brought forty years later into close and 
long relation with the same man, can only testify, 

33 C 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

with a hundred others in like case, that success 
and fortune never spoiled " Dr. John." And it 
was his peculiar gift to be able to hand on this 
tradition of friendship in business relations to his 
colleague and successor in the historic firm of 
Smith and Elder. The recent death of his son- 
in-law, Mr. Reginald Smith, who married " Dr. 
John's" youngest daughter, and carried on the 
publishing business for sixteen years after George 
Smith's death, has left a gap in the lives of many 
men and women of this literary day, my own 
among them, which will hardly be filled. For 
both he and the great man who preceded him 
belonged to that small band in each generation 
who are able to infuse into the daily ways and 
actions of practical life the quality and beauty of 
their own high and beneficent spirit. 

1 have some other personal links with Charlotte 
Bronte which I like to think of. The interesting 
letter printed by Mrs. Gaskell as written by a 
"neighbour" in 1850, describing a visit to 
Haworth in that year, was written by my aunt 
and godmother, Mrs. W. E. Forster, the wife of 
the Yorkshire member of Parliament who later on 
became the Education Minister of 1870, and 
Irish Chief Secretary, in the terrible years 1880-2. 
Before that visit, however, Charlotte Bronte had 
made friends in the Lake country with my own 
people, the widow and children of Dr. Arnold, 
of Rugby ; and last summer I talked over the 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

visit of Charlotte and Miss Martineau to Fox 
How, with Dr. Arnold's youngest daughter and 
only surviving child, who still remembers it. 
Miss Martineau and Charlotte Bronte came over 
to drink tea, and there was a young Oxonian in 
the room, who looked at them with amused and 
critical eyes, writing afterwards to a friend : — 

"At seven came Miss Martineau and Miss 
Bronte {Jane Eyre) ; I talked to Miss Martineau 
(who blasphemes frightfully) about the prospects 
of the Church of England, and, wretched man 
that I am, promised to go and see her cow- 
keeping miracles to-morrow, I who hardly know 
a cow from a sheep. I talked to Miss Bronte 
(past thirty and plain, with expressive grey eyes, 
though) of her curates, of French novels, and 
her education in a school at Brussels, and sent 
the lions roaring to their dens at half-past nine." 

Miss Bronte, who talked very little, was not 
apparently much drawn to the young author 
of The Strayed Reveller^ which had appeared 
three years earlier. She thought his manner 
" foppish," and understood that " his theological 
opinions were very vague and unsettled." But 
she knew that already he was the author of "a 
volume of poems," which, however, she had not 
seen. I wish she had seen it : there are many 
things in that first volume which would have 
spoken to her. And I wish she could have 
foreseen that from that young unknown Matthew 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Arnold, whom she met in the Fox How drawing- 
room, would come that tribute to her great 
sister Emily, which, long before the Bronte cult 
had risen to anything like its present height, 
bore testimony once again to that freemasonry, 
that quick mutual divination which marks the 
" little clan " of poets, to whom, from age to 
age, is left, in Keat's phrase, the carrying on of 
" great verse." But these things were hidden 
from the *' expressive grey eyes " my uticle 
noticed. Only, as though some prescience of 
them touched her, as Miss Bronte left the room, 
she passed my aunt, then a girl of seventeen, 
who was holding the door open, and suddenly 
the little shy, silent woman said : " May 1 kiss 
you ? " and to the girl's astonishment darted 
forward and kissed her. It was a very character- 
istic, a very Bronte-ish, touch. Compunction, 
perhaps, for that strange paralysis, that silence 
benumbing to herself and other people, which 
often fell upon her in society, and once — as we 
know from an inimitable page of Lady Ritchie's 
— drove Thackeray into letting himself out 
quietly from his own front door, in the very 
midst of a party he himself had gathered in 
her honour ; quick feeling ; quick gratefulness 
perhaps for the welcome given her by these un- 
known people : there is all this in it and more. 

" And did you once see Shelley plain. 
And did he stop and speak to you ? " 


Some Thoughts on Charlotte Bronte 

It is with something of the same wistfulness, 
the same suppressed excitement as Browning here 
expresses, that one talks now with one of the 
very few persons in the world who ever saw 
Charlotte Bronte. 

FinallV) what is it that makes the charm ? 
Along with the Celtic qualities, as we know, 
she had the Celtic faults — occasional arrogance, 
occasional vulgarity and extravagance. Emily 
Bronte had none of the loose rhetoric and 
shallow didactic into which Charlotte often fell. 
But for all that Charlotte wielded a natural 
magic of words, as George Sand did. There 
arc passages in her letters — especially in those 
describing the deaths of her sisters — that belong 
to the noblest and most moving of English 
prose. To return to the phrase of M. Renan, 
she had the " gift of piercing " ; she had been 
in fairy-land and brought back the tones of it — 
tones as often sad as gay ; and she possessed in 
fiction an art of representation, especially an art 
of dialogue, which was all her own, instinct 
with poetry and life. Which was the greater, 
she or Emily .<* To my mind, Emily, by far. 
But one is reminded of another saying of 
Goethe's to Eckermann : " For twenty years the 
public has been disputing which is the greater, 
Schiller or I — and it ought to be glad that it has 
got a couple of fellows about whom it can dispute." 

Well, Yorkshire too may be proud, I think, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

that among its moors and heaths were reared 
not one Charlotte Bronte, but such a far nobile 
fratrum (to rescue the phrase of Horace from 
its original context) as Currer and Ellis Bell. 
Yorkshire does well to keep their memories 
green ; to read, discuss them, and, at n^^di^ 
dispute about them. 

" What do we mean by originality ? " Goethe 
asks again. " As soon as we are born the 
world begins to work upon us, and this goes 
on to the end. And after all, what can we call 
our own except energy, strength, and will } " 

" Energy, strength, and will." As writers, 
Charlotte and Emily possessed them all, to a 
marvellous degree. If you add feeling, fire, 
magic — poetry, in short ! — you come as near 
perhaps as you can come to the definition of 
their place in Literature. 

Pale sisters ! children of the moorland scree, 

Deep dale and murmuring river, where ye plied 

All household arts, meek, passion-taught, and free, 

Kinship your joy, and fantasy your guide ! — 

Ah ! who again 'mid English heaths shall see 

Such strength in frailest weakness, or so fierce 

Behest on tender women laid, to pierce 

The world's dull ear with burning poetry ? 

Whence was your spell ? — and at what magic spring. 

Under what guardian Muse, drank ye so deep 

That still ye call, and we are listening ; 

That still ye plain to us, and we must weep ? 

— Ask of the winds that haunt the moors, what breath 

Blows in their storms, outlasting life and death ! 



-^•. , 


' / 

^ ..*<■ 


To face p. 38. 





The century which has slipped by since the 
birth of Charlotte Bronte may roughly be divided, 
so far as she alone is concerned, into four equal 
sections which claim our attention. During the 
first of these she was preparing, in conditions 
at once extraordinarily romantic and of the most 
painful mediocrity, for her labours as a novelist. 
Another quarter of a century closes in her first 
apotheosis, the publication of Mrs. Gaskell's 
admirable Life of her. Exposed to new currents 
of popular taste, her reputation now began 
slowly to decline, till it was thought necessary 
to assert, by way of defence, that her works 
" will one day again be regarded as evidences of 
exceptional intellectual power." Throughout a 
final period this moderate estimate has been vastly 
exceeded. The apologist who would now claim 
for her no more praise than that would be 
laughed out of court, and what, in starting in 
a blaze of glory upon her second century, 
Charlotte Bronte most pathetically calls for is, 
not blank appreciation, but some judicious 
exercise of praise. 


charlotte Bronta : a Centenary Memorial 

In the evolution of her fame, her disadvan- 
tages have been transformed into advantages, as 
toads are bewitched into pearls in some old 
fairy-story. The hard, dry atmosphere of Ha- 
worth, in the blast of a perpetual moral east 
wind ; the narrowness of the stage which the 
three wonderful sisters trod ; the ugliness which 
surrounded them ; the barrier which divided 
them from the social amenities, — all these are 
elements in the miracle of their production, and 
each of these elements has added something to 
the fascination of their books. We read these 
with trebled interest because we know what the 
conditions were. But we are in danger of not 
perceiving that they were disadvantageous, of 
supposing that they added a lustre to the genius 
of the sisters, that they were intrinsically valuable. 
It is worse than useless to regret any of the 
facts of literary history, but at least we need not 
exult in them. Among the disadvantages of 
Charlotte I place very high the puritanism which 
surrounded her from her cradle, and which 
entered into her very bones. It made her use- 
lessly and contentiously austere, and it darkened 
her outlook upon life. That artificial deepen- 
ing of the shadows may render her work more 
picturesque, but it deprives it of harmony. It 
gives a certain aspect of the dried or shrivelled 
to Charlotte's books when we compare them with 
the serene fulness, the rich and harmonious 


A Word on Charlotte Brontt' 

suavity, the ripeness, of the masterpieces of her 
supreme contemporary, George Sand. 

The imagination of Charlotte Bronte, despite 
its prodigious vitality, was a little puerile. 
When she trusted to her own ears and eyes 
she was excellent, but the narrow range within 
which observation was possible for her leaves 
us to the last with an impression of her as a 
wonderful young person who never quite grew 
up. She has the impatience, the unreasonable 
angers and revolts, of an unappreciated adolescent. 
When she seems most certainly adult she has 
still her rebellious air of enduring tribulation with 
an angry fortitude. Her ignorance sets traps 
for her, and she falls into them without a 
struggle. Mrs. Humphry Ward has com- 
mented on the amazing conversations of the 
smart people at Thornfield Hall. Polite writers, 
indulging the snobbishness of literature, think it 
would have been " charming " to talk to Char-* 
lotte Bronte. It would probably have been 
disconcerting to the highest degree, and Lady 
Ritchie's recollection of the London visit should 
be a warning to such lioness-hunters of the 

It is a pity, perhaps, that Charlotte, when the 
hour of unwelcome exile came, did not go to 
Paris instead of to Brussels. What her mind 
and her temperament needed then (in 1842) 
was sunshine, geniality, ease, and breadth. She 


Charlotte Bronfe : a Centenary Memorial 

proceeded on her sordid journey with her nerves 
on edge, her fists clenched, her eyes set with a 
fierce derision. In the Belgium of those days 
there was nothing which could be expected to 
soften her asperities or to civilize her moorland 
savagery. There should have been, on the 
other hand, much for her to sympathize with 
in the attitude of her Parisian contemporaries, 
if merely in the remarkable spectacle of that 
conflict which was raging between the romantic 
and the realistic. It would have been a whole- 
some thing for Charlotte to have been persuaded 
that there are relations, conditions, aspirations 
in the human soul not dreamed of by Lucy 
Snowe or even by Jane Eyre. I do not think 
that her own creations would have thrilled us 
less, but in the long run probably more, if she 
had studied, with humility and complaisance, 
the processes of the mighty mind of Balzac. 
But she was protected against sympathy by a 
moral pride (we should call it arrogance if we 
were not so fond of her) which closed to 
her violent individuality all the pathways of 
instruction. She could only learn what she 
taught herself. 

We must admit, even at this moment of 
exaltation, that she had faults — faults of know- 
ledge, of temper, of social experience. But her 
errors included none against high feeling. What 
she endured, what she perceived, she reproduced 


A Word on Charlotte Bronte 

with the purest intensity, an intensity which 
transfers itself to the reader, who admits that he 
is thrilled, in her own splendid phrase, '' to the 
finest fibre of my being, sir ! " To this expres- 
sion of concentrated emotion she brought a 
faculty of power in which her work is unique. 
She has a spell by means of which she holds us 
enchanted, while she lays before us the distresses 
and the exasperations of humanity. Her great 
gift, no doubt, lay in the unconscious courage 
with which she broke up the stereotyped com- 
placency of the age. Her passion swept over 
the pools of Early Victorian fiction and roused 
them to storm ; the undulations that it set in 
motion have been vibrating in our literature 
ever since, and perhaps the most wonderful 
fact about Charlotte Bronte is that the eman- 
cipation of English fiction from the chains of 
conventionality should have been brought about, 
against her own will, by this little provincial 
Puritan. She was, in her own words, " furnace- 
tried by pain, stamped by constancy," and out 
of her fires she rose, a Phcenix of poetic fancy, 
crude yet without a rival, and now, in spite of 
all imperfections, to live for ever in the forefront 
of creative English genius. 






The genius of Charlotte Bronte is unique in the 
only valuable sense in which the word can be 
applied ; the only sense which separates the rarity 
of some gift in a poet from the rarity of some 
delusion in an asylum. However complex or 
even grotesque an artistic power may be, it 
must be as these qualities exist in a key, which 
is one of the most complex and grotesque of 
human objects, but which has for its object the 
opening of doors and the entrance into wider 
things. Charlotte Bronte's art was something 
more or less than complex : and it was not to 
be described as grotesque ; except rarely — and 
unintentionally. But it was temperamental and, 
like all things depending on temperament, un- 
equal : and it was so personal as to be perverse. 
It is in connection with power of this kind, 
however creative, that we have to discover and 
define what distinguishes it from the uncreativc 
intensity of the insane. I cannot understand 
what it was that made the Philistines of a former 

49 D 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

generation regard Jane Eyre as morally unsound ; 
probably it was its almost exaggerated morality. 
But if they had regarded it as mentally unsound, 
I could have understood their prejudice, while 
perceiving the nature of their error. Jane Eyre 
is, among other things, one of the finest detective 
stories in the world ; and for any one artistically 
attuned to that rather electric atmosphere, the 
discovery of the mad wife of Rochester is, as that 
type of artistic sensation should always be, at once 
startling and suitable. But a stolid reader, trained 
in a tamer school of fiction, might be excused, I 
think, if he came to the. conclusion that the wife 
was not very much madder than her husband, and 
that even the governess herself was a little queer. 
Such a critic, however, would be ill-taught, as 
people often are in tame schools ; for the mildest 
school is anything but the most moral. The 
distinction between the liberating violence that 
belongs to virtue, as distinct from the merely 
burrowing and self-burying violence that belongs 
to vice, is something that can only be conveyed 
by metaphors; such as that I have used about 
the key. Some may feel disposed to say that the 
Bronte spirit was not so much a key as a battering- 
ram. She had indeed some command of both 
instruments, and could use the more domestic 
one quietly enough at times ; but the vital point 
is that they opened the doors. Or it might be 
said that Jane Eyre and the mad woman lived in 


charlotte Bronte as a Romantic 

the same dark and rambling house of mystery, 
but for the maniac all doors opened continually 
inwards, while for the heroine all doors, one after 
•the other, opened outwards towards the sun. 

One of these universal values in the case of 
Charlotte Bronte is the light she throws on a 
very fashionable aesthetic fallacy : the over- 
iterated contrast between realism and romance. 
They are spoken of as if they were two alternative 
types of art, and sometimes even as if they were 
two antagonistic directions of spiritual obligation. 
But in truth they are things in two different 
categories ; and, like all such things, can exist 
together, or apart, or in any degree of combina- 
tion. Romance is a spirit ; and as for realism, 
it is a convention. To say that some literary 
work is realistic, not romantic, is to be as 
inconsequent as the man who said to me once 
(and it is heart-breaking to reflect how many 
scores of equally inconsequent people have said 
it), " The Irish are warm-hearted, not logical." 
He, at any rate, was not logical, or he would 
have seen that his statement was like saying that 
somebody was red-haired rather than athletic. 
There is no kind of reason why a man with 
strong reasoning power should not have strong 
affections ; and it is my experience, if anything, 
that the man who can argue clearly in the 
abstract generally does have a generosity of 
blood and instincts. But he may not have it ; 


Charlotte Bront'd : a Centenary Memorial 

for the things are in different categories. This 
case of an error about the Irish has some appli- 
cation to the individual case of Charlotte Bronte, 
who was Irish by blood, and in a sense, all the 
more Irish for being brought up in Yorkshire. 
An Irish friend of mine, who suffers the same exile 
in the same environment, once made to me the 
suggestive remark that the towering and over- 
masculine barbarians and lunatics, who dominate 
the Bronte novels, simply represent the impres- 
sion produced by the rather boastful Yorkshire 
manners upon the more civilized and sensitive 
Irish temperament. But the wider application 
is that romance is an atmosphere, as distinct as 
a separate dimension, which co-exists with and 
penetrates the whole work of Charlotte Bronte ; 
and is equally present in all her considerable 
triumphs of realism, and in her even greater 
triumphs of unreality. 

Realism is a convention, as I have said : it 
is generally a matter of external artistic form, 
when it is not a matter of mere fashion or con- 
venience, how far the details of life are given, 
or how far they are the details of the life we 
know best. It may be rather more difficult to 
describe a winged horse than a war horse : but 
after all it is as easy to count feathers as to 
count hairs ; it is as easy and as dull. The 
story about a hero in which the hairs of his 
horse were all numbered would not be a story 


Charlotte Bronte as a Romantic 

at all ; the line must be drawn a long while 
before we come to anything like literal reality ; 
and the question of whether we give the horse 
his wings, or even trouble to mention his colour, 
is merely a question of the artistic form we have 
chosen. It is the question between casting a 
horse in bronze or carving him in marble ; not 
the question between describing a horse for the 
purposes of a zoologist or for the purposes of a 
bookie. But the spirit of the work is quite 
another thing. Works of the wildest fantasti- 
cality in form can be filled with a rationalistic 
and even a sober spirit : as are some of the works 
of Lucian, of Swift and of Voltaire. On the 
other hand, descriptions of the most humdrum 
environments, told with the most homely inti- 
macy, can be shot through and through with 
the richest intensity, not only of the spirit of 
sentiment but of the spirit of adventure. Few 
will be impelled to call the household of Mr. 
Rochester a humdrum environment ; but it is none 
the less true that Charlotte Bronte can fill the 
quietest rooms and corners with a psychological 
romance which is rather a matter of temperature 
than of time or place. After all, the sympathetic 
treatment of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre is 
not more intrinsically romantic and even exag- 
gerative than the sympathetic treatment of Mr. 
Paul Emanuel in Villette ; though the first 
may be superficially a sort of demon and the 


Charlotte BrontS : a Centenary Memorial 

second more in the nature of an imp. To 
present Mr. Emanuel sympathetically at all 
was something of an arduous and chivalric 
adventure. And Charlotte Bronte was chivalric 
in this perfectly serious sense ; perhaps in too 
serious a sense, for she paid for the red-hot 
reality of her romance in a certain insufficiency 
of humour. She was adventurous, but in an 
intensely individualistic and therefore an in- 
tensely womanly way. It is the most feminine 
thing about her that we can think of her as a 
knight-errant, but hardly as one of an order or 
round table of knights-errant. Thackeray said 
that she reminded him of Joan of Arc. But 
it is one of the fascinating elements in the long 
romance of Christendom that figures like Joan 
of Arc have an existence in romance apart from, 
and even before, their existence in reality. This 
vision of the solitary virgin, adventurous and in 
arms, is very old in European literature and 
mythology ; and the spirit of it went with the 
little governess along the roads to the dark 
mansion of madness as if to the castle of an 
ogre. The same tale had run like a silver thread 
through the purple tapestries of Ariosto ; and 
we may willingly salute in our great country- 
woman, especially amid the greatest epic of our 
country, something of that nobility which is in 
the very name of Britomart. 






Charlotte Bronte was born a century ago, 
on April 21, 1 8 1 6 ; and she died on March 
31, 1855. Yet in those short years, years of 
bleak and hard nurture, much depressing ill- 
health, tragic sorrow, such as fall to the lot of 
but few human beings, and with a temperament 
so highly strung and sensitive that the simplest 
situations of life overwhelmed her with nervous 
terrors, she attained an enduring fame, which 
has increased and broadened every year. But 
not only that. There are certain figures of 
undeniable genius, whose work remains as a 
substantial and venerated contribution to human 
thought, but whose personality becomes absorbed 
and folded into the past. On the other hand, 
there are men and women, the fascination of 
whose personality and life seems even stronger 
than that of their books. The smallest details 
of their career are cherished, and contemporary 
records are ransacked for traces of their words 
and acts. This is undeniably the case with 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Charlotte Bronte. She was not one of those 
who put the whole of themselves into their books, 
leaving their lives silent and featureless. Rather 
her books were just the natural outcome and 
expression of her inmost self. The qualities 
which her deeply seated diffidence prevented her 
from displaying in daily life, her humour, her 
penetrating insight, her delicate fancy, her 
liveliness, her passionate affections, her noble 
scorn of all that was cold or mean, all these 
flashed into life on her pages. 

When her first great book, Jane Eyre^ 
appeared in 1847, it provoked attention and 
speculation by its daring, its unconventional 
standards, its realistic sensationalism, and its 
austere and beautiful rendering of natural scenes. 
But it was hardly realized at first that it contained 
more than a novel kind of sentiment, bolder, 
more natural, more self-revealing than the 
orthodox and homely pieties of current fiction. 
It evoked, it is true, both protest and even in- 
dignation by a frankness which was confused with 
indelicacy. But the later books, Shirley and 
FilieUe, less romantic, more restrained, more 
mature, brought home to their readers that a 
new philosophy of love, from the woman's point 
of view, was here resolutely depicted. It was 
not a revolt against tame and formal conven- 
tions so much as a new sense of right and dignity, 
a manifesto, so to speak, of the equality of noble 


Charlotte Bronte : a Personal Sketch 

love. Compare the conception of love, from 
the woman's standpoint, in the novels of Dickens 
and Thackeray, with Charlotte Bronte's concep- 
tion. In Dickens and Thackeray love is at 
best a reward, a privilege, graciously tendered 
and rapturously accepted ; and the highest con- 
ception of wifely love is one of fidelity and 
patience and unselfish tendance gently rendered 
by a domestic angel, whose glory is self-repres- 
sion, and whose highest praise is to afford an 
uncritical haven of repose to an undisputed 

But in Charlotte Bronte's books it is far other- 
wise. The woman does not look upon marriage 
as the door of escape from obscurity into activity. 
Her love is rather a noble surrender, only to be 
won by a surrender no less noble. Marriage is 
not submission, but a free and glowing partner- 
ship, in which man and woman alike have to do 
their best, in tenderness and reverence and grati- 
tude, to maintain their love undimmed and ardent. 
The man is not to decline into a comfortable 
supremacy surrounded by delicate attentions, with 
full freedom to indulge his humours. It is rather 
to be a sacred and impassioned relationship, in 
which both alike have to do their utmost to keep 
the mutual ideal of loyalty and duty fresh and 
pure. Passionate as the affection is which draws 
Charlotte Bronte's lovers together — was ever the 
incredible thrill of human contact, the blankness 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of separation, the joy of meeting drawn with so 
bold an outspokenness ? — yet there is always 
present in her love-affairs the germ of a deep 
and tender friendship, sure to broaden and de- 
velop, as the years go on, into a perfect trust 
and union. Whatever happens, the two are 
always to be themselves^ not a faint and sym- 
pathetic copy of each other, but strong and 
independent, linked together in a joyful and 
grateful service. That is, I believe, the message of 
Charlotte Bronte's books — the high equality of love. 
Let us think for a moment of the background 
upon which this great and noble creed outlined 
itself. A bleak and wind-swept vicarage, between 
the hill-village and the moor. The mother fades 
early out of life ; the father lives in a fiery and 
impotent seclusion. The children live their own 
lives, doing much of the house-work, and in- 
dulging in endless plays and romances. They 
go off to school, and two of the delicate creatures 
fall victims to hard and insanitary conditions. 
The four who remain are drawn closely together, 
a brother of amazing brilliance, one sister, Emily, 
a poetess of high genius, but with a horror of the 
intrusive world, a younger sister, Anne, of tender 
if sombre piety, and Charlotte herself. All their 
little adventures, school-teaching and governess- 
ships, are poisoned by shyness and home-sickness. 
But in the sojourn of Charlotte and Emily in 
Brussels, at a girls' school, where they are half 


Charlotte Bronte': a Personal Sketch 

pupils and half teachers, Charlotte Bronte's heart 
and mind awake in an unconscious passion for a 
teacher, M. Heger, a man of insight, mental 
power, intellectual and moral stimulus. That 
was really the moulding influence of Charlotte 
Bronte's genius. It gave her an unrequited devo- 
tion, but initiated her into the mystery of love, 
while it gave her mind its firm and fine maturity. 
Then the tragedy deepens and thickens ; the 
brother comes to hopeless grief, and saddens the 
house by his dreary and base excesses. He dies 
at last, and the other sisters follow him swiftly 
to the grave. But it was then, in solitude and 
sorrow, that Charlotte Bronte's mind flowered 
in her noblest book, Villette ; and then, too, at 
last she found her own haven in the deep and 
wholesome love of a strong, tender and simple 
man, her father's curate ; she knew for once the 
full delight of being needed, depended upon, and 

But we cannot make a greater mistake than to 
think of Charlotte Bronte as in any sense a senti- 
mentalist. For all her diffidence and ill-health 
and her high dreams and visions, she had a nature 
almost relentlessly strong. There never was any- 
one with a more unflinching sense of duty. Her 
judgments of other people are not mild and in- 
dulgent. She had a scorn for all that was base 
and mean and feeble. She made no excuses for 
herself and she did not excuse weakness in others. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

All the practical steps ever taken by the house- 
hold were planned and executed by her. When 
she was harshly and insolently criticized, she was 
not crushed by it ; her impulse was to make 
sharp and spirited reply. She went on with her 
work without fear or deference ; she made no 
concessions or compromises. She was not meekly 
religious, accepting sorrow and defeat with mild 
forbearance. She looked upon life as a probation, 
a chance of learning great truths and large experi- 
ences. She had a certain fear of life, but she 
looked it firmly in the face, interrogated it, defied 
it to harm her, laid hands upon its secret. Like 
/ Jacob of old, she said to the stern visitant, " I 
>J will not let thee go, until thou bless me." She 
never craved for flight or for repose. She had a 
sublime faith in God, believing that He had set 
her in her place to endure, and wrestle, and to 
say her say, and she knew that He would not 
allow her to be worsted. It is by this wonderful 
union of unconquerable courage and passionate 
tenderness that »she has won the affection and 
worship of so many hearts, the lonely hearts that 
suffer -and would fain be beloved, as well as the 
strong hearts that recognize in her a gallant 
comrade in a stern battle. She is the champion 
J of strength in weakness as well as of love in 
loneliness, and the fame that resounds about her 
grave is but the echo of gratitude and honour 

and love. 







It is with a deeply reverential feeling that I 
have accepted the privilege of speaking a few 
words, such as may not, I hope, be altogether 
unsuitable to the memories which cling around 
this House of God, in connection with the 
Centenary year of Charlotte Bronte's birth. 
She was born, as you know, at Thornton on 
April 21, 1816. She was baptized in Thornton 
Church on June 29th of the same year. She 
died on March 31, 1855. Thus the associations 
of living men and women with her life are 
rapidly dying, if they are not now almost 
dead. For me, the last of them was broken 
by the death of my friend, Miss Margaret 
Emily Gaskell, the " Meta " of Charlotte 
Bronte's letters, in October 1913. So long as 
Miss Gaskell lived, her house, so well known 
to the literary and philanthropic world of Man- 
chester, was the abiding link with Charlotte 
Bronte. For it was there that Charlotte Bronte 
' Delivered in Haworth Parish Church, June 17, 1916. 
65 E 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

stayed on her visits to Manchester ; there that, 
in the stately and rather sombre drawing-room, 
scarcely altered between her own death and 
Miss Gaskell's, she hid behind the curtains on 
the sudden announcement of a strange visitor ; 
there, too, that her biography was written by 
Mrs. GaskelJ. Now, alas ! that house in Ply- 
mouth Grove is closed, and the citizens of 
Manchester look back, through an ever length- 
ening and darkening vista, to the great names 
of Mrs. Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte. 

The year 1816 may be said to unite Charlotte 
Bronte with the great generation which was 
born in the first and second decades of the 
nineteenth century. It was a year memorable 
in the achievements of literary genius. For in 
that year — just one hundred years ago — Scott 
published The Antiquary^ Byron the third Canto 
of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and Goethe the 
first part of his Italienische Reise. 

No student of Charlotte Bronte's or her 
sisters' writings would, perhaps, think of placing 
them, as equals or compeers, in the same class 
with these three illustrious authors. The sect, 
or church, of the Bronte-worshippers is com- 
paratively small. But it may be doubted 
whether any votaries in the history of literature 
have pursued their cult with more passionate 
or pathetic feelings than they — shall I not say 
we ? — who gather in spirit, and to-day in 


Centenary Address at Haworth 

person, around the graves of Charlotte Bronte 
and so many other members of her family. 

If it be asked why our feelings are so deep, 
as though we were mourning, in Charlotte 
Bronte especially, not only a writer, however 
bright she may have shone in the firmament of 
literature, but a friend in whose life we would, 
if we might, claim a sympathetic share, no doubt 
the reason lies, to some extent, in the mystery, 
I had almost said the tragedy, of the Brontes. 
Never, it may be, has human genius asserted 
itself so suddenly and surprisingly as in the 
three daughters of the Reverend Patrick Bronte. 
Never has such genius been so suddenly and so 
ruthlessly extinguished by the Angel of Death. 
Anne Bronte was twenty-nine years of age at 
her death, Emily only thirty years, Charlotte, 
the most famous of all the sisters, only thirty- 
eight. Two other sisters there were — Elizabeth 
and Maria — who died, one in the eleventh, and 
the other in the twelfth, year of her age. Their 
one brother — the unhappy Branwell — whose gifts 
were clouded by such errors and failings as cast 
a shadow upon his whole family, did not live 
beyond his thirty-first year. Their mother died — 
" departed to the Saviour " as the inscription upon 
her grave tells — when her eldest child was only 
six years old. Their father outlived his whole 
family, and, after having been ** incumbent of 
Haworth for upward of forty-one years," died 


Charlotte Brontif : a Centenary Memorial 

in the eighty-fifth year of his age — more than 
six years after his daughter Charlotte's death. 

It is the thought of genius so prematurely cut 
off, as men count days and deeds, of Charlotte 
Bronte's especially, that inspired Matthew 
Arnold's well-known lines upon Haworth 

Strew with laurel the grave 
Of the early dying ! Alas ! 
Early she goes on the path 
To the silent country, and leave* 
Half her laurels unwon, 
Dying too soon ! Yet green 
Laurels she had, and a course 
Short, but redoubled by fame. 

For of Charlotte Bronte it was true — if 1 
may quote the sacred words — that she " being 
made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long 
time." " We live in deeds, not years," says 
the author of Fe^tuSy whose own centenary year 
coincides with hers ; he was born, I think, 
only one day after her. 

Wc live in deeds, not years ; in thoughts, not breaths ; 
In feelings, not in figures on a dial. 
Wc should count time by heart-throbs ; he most lives 
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, and acts the best. 

Yet was there ever a home which might have 
seemed to be so improbable a birth-place of 


Centenary Address at Haworth 

literary works destined to affect the mind and 
the heart of the English-speaking world, as the 
Parsonage of Haworth ? When I was thinking 
of my address, I could not but recall the 
confession of him who was " no prophet, 
neither a prophet's son," but only " an herds- 
man and a gatherer of sycamore fruit " ; yet 
the Lord took him, "as he followed the 
flock," and bade him *' Go, prophesy unto My 
people Israel." It is always, or often, in the 
most unlikely places that human genius lifts 
its head. The three hundred years which have 
elapsed since Shakespeare's death, if they have 
at all drawn aside the veil which has happily 
saved him from much desecrating criticism, 
have only accentuated the contrast between his 
parentage, his domestic life, his local and social 
environments and himself. There can be no 
more fatal mistake on earth than the prejudice, 
whether local or personal, which lies in the 
question, " Can there any good thing come 
out of Nazareth.'*" For out of Nazareth 
came the Highest and the Holiest of the 
children of men, and the lesson of His birth 
illumines and ennobles the possibilities of every 
town and every age all the world over. 

Still, it is possible that the history of human 
literature affords no parallel to the life of the 
Brontes at Haworth Parsonage. The family 
lived in their little home, cut off not only, at all 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

times, from the great world, but for many weeks 
or months from the neighbouring towns like 
Leeds or Bradford, and even from Keighley. 
They enjoyed few opportunities, if indeed any, 
of social and intellectual culture. They saw no 
friends, or hardly any ; and until the name of 
Bronte became famous, the arrival of a passing 
visitor was itself an event. Their daily walks 
took them across the bleak moors. It was, as 
Charlotte Bronte herself said, ** only the brief 
flower-flush of August on the heather, or the 
rare sunset-smile of June," which came as a relief 
from the ever-present gloom of the moorland. 
Below their home, as you see to-day, stood the 
church, with the churchyard, which was possibly 
the source of their frequent illnesses, lying in 
part above it. The father of the three sisters 
and their wayward brother was a recluse. How 
much of their literary genius they owed to him 
it is difficult to say. He too was, although he 
is not generally known to have been, an author, 
and a poet ; but in his Cottage Poems there 
is not perhaps a single stanza worth preserving. 
Even if Mrs. Gaskell's stories of his eccentricity, 
as shown by his habit of carrying a loaded pistol 
with him byi day and laying it on his dressing- 
table at night, are discarded, yet he was an invalid, 
generally living, and even taking his meals, by 
himself; and never dreaming of all that was 
going on, when he had retired to bed, in the 


Centenary Adaress at Haiioorth 

little schoolroom of his house. Yet the story 
of the way in which Charlotte Bronte revealed 
to him the publication of Jane Eyre does not 
forbid the thought of a tender sympathy between 
father and daughter. The mother died, as I 
have said, when all her children were young. 
The aunt who took, or tried to take, the 
mother's place was always pretty well a stranger 
to her nephew and nieces, and she spent the last 
years of her life very much in her own room. 
Nothing could well exceed the loneliness of their 
days. Nor was it sensibly relieved by the 
experiences they gained, whether as pupils, or as 
teachers, in schools, or in M. Heger's Pensionnat 
at Brussels. There is a world of meaning in 
the note which Charlotte Bronte appended to 
her sister Anne's poem, " Lines Written from 
Home," when she said, " My sister Anne had 
to taste the cup of life as it is mixed for the 
class termed 'Governesses.'" It has been some- 
times held that Mrs. Gaskell's well-known Life 
of Charlotte Bronte conveys an overdrawn 
impression of deep sadness. I do not think 
that criticism will be passed by any one who has 
read the Poems by Currer^ Ellis^ and Acton Bell^ 
or even the later poems of the three sisters ; 
for unless I am wrong, there is among them 
all one poem, and one only, which is not tinged 
by the sombre hue of melancholy. But what 
faith, what courage was theirs ! It was little 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

that they suffered the disappointment of seeing 
their early manuscripts tossed from publisher to 
publisher. That has been the fate of most, or of 
many, authors who have attained celebrity in 
letters. It is difficult indeed to escape the feeling 
of astonishment at the blindness of so many 
publishers to the writings of unknown genius. 
Few however can be the writers who, some 
time after the publication of their book, have 
learnt that the copies of it which have been sold 
were only two. It was, as is well known, on 
the very day when Charlotte Bronte knew 
the rejection of 'The Professor^ the day too 
when she was nursing her father after the 
operation upon his eyes at Manchester, that she 
began the writing of Jane Eyre. 

I am not called to pass a literary judgment 
upon the three sisters, or upon Charlotte, the 
most famous of them, to-day. That would be 
the office of another place and another time 
than this. All that you will ask of me is 
some brief estimate of the part which religion 
plays in the circumstances of her life. It is, 
of course, true that she was spiritually the child 
of the Church of England and of a clerical 
home within that Church. She and her sisters 
are striking figures in the long gallery of the 
men and women distinguished, not only in 
letters but in all aspects of public life, who have 
been born and bred in the parsonages and 


From' a photograph taken about 1861. 

Centenary Address at Haworth 

manses of England, Scotland, and Wales. Her 
loyalty to her Church was one source of her 
unhappiness in the strictly Roman Catholic 
school to which she was sent at Brussels. She 
was the daughter of a clergyman, she was the 
wife of a clergyman. It does not seem that, from 
first to last, any doubt of Christianity or of her 
own national Church fell as a cloud upon her 
sensitive spirit. If she was happy anywhere, 
she was happy in her religion. 

God gave her her genius, and she acknow- 
ledged it as His gift. Many blessings there are 
which are born of inheritance or environment 
or education ; but the greatest of gifts, such as 
beauty or genius, God keeps in His own hands. 
Charlotte Bronte cannot well have written 
seriously when she told her lifelong friend, 
Ellen Nussey, that the text which she quoted 
in one of her letters, " The wind bloweth 
where it listeth. Thou hearest the sound thereof, 
but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither 
it goeth," was, she believed. Scripture, though 
in what chapter or book, or whether it was 
correctly quoted, she" could not possibly say. 
Whether she knew it or not, it was true of her 
family and herself. 

Every one who has read the story of Charlotte 
Bronte and her sisters is aware how much they 
owed, in their writings, to the events and 
experiences of their own lives. Few lives 


Charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

indeed, so strangely limited as theirs, can have 
afforded so much material for literature. The 
Professor^ Shirley^ Villette^ and even Jane 
Eyre in its central motive, were inspired by 
circumstances of her own life, or circumstances 
which had come to be known to her in her 
life. It is a curious tribute to the vivid effect 
of her portraiture that she was criticized for 
inaccuracy in some details of her characters, as 
though she had meant her characters to be actual 
photographs of real men and women. But genius 
is nowhere more clearly seen than in the use 
which it makes of such incidents as common 
humanity passes by. 

If Charlotte Bronte owed much to her own 
life, most of all did she owe to its sadness. A 
few months of peace God granted her at the 
last, but the rest was silent tragedy. So great 
a poet as Shelley has said that 

. . . most wretched men, 
Arc cradled into poetry by wrong, 
They learn in suffering what they teach in song. 

Charlotte Bronte was not embittered by the 
pains, the losses, and the disappointments of her 
life. They only quickened her insight and 
her sympathy. But it may well be doubted if 
she could have written her books with such 
pathetic intensity, if she had not passed through 
the deep waters of affliction. 


Centenary Address at Haworth 

She was no prophet, nor was she, in any 
literary sense, a prophet's daughter, but the 
Lord took her as she followed the flock, and 
He bade her " Go, prophesy unto My people." 
The charge of irreligion or immorality in her 
writings may fall from her, I think, unanswered 
and unheeded, because it is wholly undeserved. 
Very touching are the poems of the three 
sisters in their religious character. Emily was, 
I believe, the truest poet, and the last lines 
which she ever wrote were quoted not long 
ago by a high living authority for their sub- 
lime expression of an almost pantheistic faith 
in God. 

Though earth and men were gone, 

And suns and universes ceased to be. 

And Thou vvert left alone, 

Every existence would exist in Thee. 

There is no room for death, 

Nor atom that his might could render void : 

Thou — Thou art being and breath, 

And what Thou art may never be destroyed. 

But more touching are the last lines of Anne 
Bronte, who so soon followed her sister Emily 
to the grave, the lines which have just been 
sung in this service. For they were written 
upon her deathbed, and as her sister Charlotte 
said, *' These lines written, the desk was closed, 
the pen laid aside for ever." 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

If Thou shouldst bring me back to life. 

More humbled I should be ; 
More wise, more strengthened for the strife, 

More apt to lean on Thee. 
Should death be standing at the gate, 

Thus should I keep my vow ; 
But, Lord, whatever be my fate, 

O let me serve Thee now ! 

This is the inmost spirit of Charlotte Bronte 
also. It was understood by the wisest of her 
contemporaries. I know not if all her admirers, 
who listen to me now, are acquainted with an 
article which Thackeray, her own literary hero, 
wrote in the Cornhill Magazine of April, i860, 
under the title " The Last Sketch," as an intro- 
duction to the fragment, which she left behind 
her at her death, of a new novel to be called 
Emma, It is worth reading, worth remembering 
too ; for he speaks in it of his own brief per- 
sonal intercourse with her, and of the impres- 
sion which she left upon his memory. " A 
great and holy reverence of right and truth," 
he says, " seemed to be with her always." 

It will be well perhaps, in this Centenary year 
since her birth, to take leave of her with these 
words of one whom she so greatly admired. 
She dedicated to him, as you know, the second 
edition of Jane Eyre. His appreciation of her 
literary work she valued, I think, above all 
other rewards. 


Centenary Address at Haworth 

Yet, we cannot take leave of her, above all 
in the village where she lived and died, and 
in this holy place where she often worshipped, 
without asking what her feelings would be if 
she were living now in the agony of an almost 
world-wide war. Certainly she would have felt 
for the great soldier, whose death has saddened 
of late the whole British Empire, something of 
the admiration which she lavished upon the 
Duke of Wellington. Certainly she would have 
honoured the gallant seamen and soldiers who 
have died for their country and their Empire in 
the spirit of these lines of hers — not generally 
known — which I am courteously permitted to 

Weep for the Dying Martyr, weep. 
And the soldier, laid on the battle-plain 

Alone at the close of night, alone. 
The passing off of some warlike-strain 

Blent with his latest moan ; 
His thoughts all for his fatherland, 
His feeble heart, his unnerved hand 
Still quiveringly upraised to wield 
Once more his bright sword on the field, 
While wakes his fainting energy 
To gain her yet one victory ; 
As he lies bleeding cold and low, 
A» life's red tide is ebbing slow, 
Lament for fallen bravery. 

For, alas! the world seems to have become 
all a house of mourning. The stain of blood- 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

shed is seen everywhere, except, methinks, upon 
the lintels of the houses when the Angel of 
Death passes by. Yet there is comfort, if there 
is sorrow, in the retrospect of one hundred years. 
When Charlotte Bronte was born, the victory 
of Waterloo had just been won. But it would 
be a historical error to think of that victory as 
at once inaugurating an era of national peace 
and prosperity. It was in 1816 that the 
Luddite agitation assumed its most threatening 
character. She has herself told the story of it 
in Shirley. All over England the evils of 
scarcity resulting from a bad harvest, of distress 
in the manufacturing area, of commercial bank- 
ruptcy, of unemployment, of discontent, and of 
frequent rioting, were felt to be portents of a 
coming revolution. They pointed the way to 
great social and political reforms, of which she 
herself lived to be the witness — such as the 
Reform Act, Roman Catholic Emancipation, and 
the Abolition of the Corn Laws, But there are 
some endowments of human life which rise above 
all social vicissitudes. One of these is literature ; 
another, I think, is religion. Charlotte Bronte, 
amidst the troubles of her time, pursued her way 
undeviatingly to her appointed goal. She gave 
herself to literature and to love. Few among 
men and women can there have been who have 
done less to stain the chrisoms of their baptism 
than she. Yet like the saints, of whom the 


Centenary Address at Haworth 

anthem appointed for this memorial service tells, 
she had " come out of great tribulation," she 
had *' washed her robe and made it white in the 
blood of the Lamb." " Therefore are they" — and 
she, as we humbly believe — *' before the throne 
of God, and serve Him day and night in His 
temple : and He that sitteth on the throne 
shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no 
more, neither thirst any more ; neither shall the 
sun light on them nor any heat. For the Lamb 
which is in the midst of the throne shall feed 
them, and shall lead them unto living fountains 
of waters : and God shall wipe away all tears 
from their eyes. ' 




By m. h. spielmann 


During tie Charlotte Bronii Centenary lueek this Paper loas published in 
The Time* Literary Supplement {13 April 1916), and is here 
refublishid, by permission^ with numerous tnundations and additions. 


Few novelists have been so much the outcome 
of their surroundings as Charlotte Bronte ; few 
have been more autobiographical under cover of 
fiction, few have depended more for their mise- 
en-sceney down to veriest details and microscopic 
touches, on the localities adopted as the back- 
ground of their plots. Wherefore the game of 
localizing places, streets, and houses mentioned 
in her books, as also of identifying, tant bien que 
tnal^ the personages of her stories, has been 
played with rare enjoyment by an ever-increasing 
body of enthusiasts. The sport has become a 
cult, and Bronte literature is fast swelling into 
a library of respectable dimensions. 

Even the most zealous of the explorers must 
be aware that whether Miss Bronte meant to 
reproduce this place or that with absolute 
fidelity, or whether she was only fashioning the 
characteristics of her backgrounds into a 


Charlotte BrontC : a Centenary Memorial 

sufficiently convincing '* set," is a matter of 
minor interest and of minimum literary im- 
portance. But the spot in which so many 
fruitful months of her life were passed — 
inasmuch as they laid their impress so un- 
mistakably upon her art and upon her character 
and her life's happiness, tearing her heart 
and awakening her soul, as appears again and 
again in her human comedy, vivifying some of 
her most poignant scenes and prompting her 
most trenchant utterances — this stands in a 
different category. Of this pregnant spot, this 
sheltered nook, we have had descriptions in 
The Professor and in Villette^ in Mrs. Gaskell's 
luife^ and in the books of Mr. Clement Shorter, 
Mrs. Chadwick, Mrs. Macdonald, Mr. Wroot, 
and others, and we have seen photographs of 
the exterior of the school and of the ancient 
garden it embraced. But the whole budget ex- 
plains but incompletely the surroundings wherein 
were played out the little life dramas of Paul 
Emanuel and Lucy Snowe, of William Crimsworth 
and Frances Henri, and at least one palpitating 
scene of Charlotte Bronte's own experience, in 
the matter of the half unwitting and wholly 
unresponsive Professor Constantin Heger. 

For that reason, a few months before the War 
broke out, I presumed on friendship to beg 
Mademoiselle Louise Heger to draw for me a 
plan of the school-house and the surrounding 


Charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

premises where a great part of her life had been 
passed, with all the accuracy which her cultivated 
artist-memory would permit. Her suggestive 
sketch, the result of gracious compliance, forms 
the basis of the map which — with certain obvious 
errors in scale and numerous details added — was 
duly drawn and printed, illustrating main build- 
ings, routes, and points of interest connected with 
the novels and with the author herself. Readers 
may therefore realize henceforward with greater 
ease the Bronte theatre and the stage, and the 
exits and the entrances of the players. 
Mademoiselle Heger, it will be remembered, 
was the little Georgette of Villette ; she 
loved Charlotte Bronte as the story-child loved 
Lucy Snowe with a love that was returned ; and 
she still bears Miss Bronte's face and figure 
clearly imprinted on her memory. 

Hither, in 1842, the Rev. Patrick Bronte 
brought his daughters Charlotte and Emily, 
and left the young women, soberly and earnestly 
hopeful, in the charge of the motherly Madame 
Heger and her mercurial husband ; and hither, 
a year later, worn out by a trying journey in 
foul weather, Charlotte returned alone, drawn by 
an irresistible attraction to continue her schemed- 
out studies and to pursue her teaching. 

When the weary traveller arrived in the Rue 
d'Isabelle she reached the nursery of her genius. 
Cradle assuredly it was not. Her genius had 


Charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

long since quickened in Haworth, tended by 
her father in her earliest years. In Brussels 
it was trained, developed, nurtured, and directed 
by M. Heger, but inspired at least as much by 
her own thought and suffering as by her master's 
care. It would have blossomed in any case ; yet 
but for him — apart from that Romance which the 
poor girl's letters so touchingly and so beautifully 
revealed — it assuredly would have blossomed into 
a different flower, a bloom of another growth, 
less cultivated, perhaps less vivid in colour, less 
rich, less sweet, and less pungent in its perfume. 
The Charlotte Bronte we know and honour, 
whose faculty was forced into the particular 
luxuriance by which it is recognized through her 
experiences in the Pensionnat, was, greatly in 
her art and to some degree in her emotion, the 
product of the Rue d'Isabelle. 

In Villettey then, Miss Bronte pictures Lucy 
Snowe's arrival in Brussels much as it occurred 
to herself on her second visit. Now let us follow 
her, step by step — for the first time — to her 
predestined home. " Having left behind us the 
miry Chaussee " — that is to say, the Chaussec 
de Gand — the diligence rattled over the pave- 
ment, passed through the Porte de Flandre, 
and stopped at the bureau. Hence Dr. John 
Bretton courteously conducted Miss Snowe along 
the boulevards, on foot, through darkness, fog, 
and rain, past the Alice Verte — at that time 


Charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

almost a civic pleasaunce, referred to in The 
Professor^ but now an arid waste of sand and 
stone, a mere eastern quay to the Canal de 
Willebroeck — until by the Rue Ducale or the 
Rue de la Loi the north-east gate of the Park 
was reached, and the park " crossed " to an 
opening into the Rue Royale opposite the 
Montagne du Pare, which descends to the Lower 
Town. Here her guide left her, after having 
instructed her how to reach a decent inn by 
descending the Belliard steps. 

It has been supposed that this would in 
reality have been too long a walk ; but in the 
author's eyes it must have been a mere ramble, 
for in The Professor the newly affianced Crims- 
worth and Frances Henri celebrate their engage- 
ment by making *' a tour of the city by the 
Boulevards " — a jaunt of twice the distance which 
tired the lady but *'a little." 

Lucy's progress from this point to the 
Pensionnat has created some difficulty in readers' 
minds, yet it is clear enough. Misunderstanding 
her instructions, she missed the Belliard steps ' 
to the Rue d'Isabelle, wherein, at its junction with 
the Rue des Douze Apotres and the Rue de la 
Chancellerie was supposed to stand the inn of 

' The opening in the Rue Royale would not reveal to 
the passer-by, particularly at night-time, the existence of 
the Belliard steps, because the head of the stairway is masked 
by the pedestal of the General's statue. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

which she was in search, and wandered straight 
on along " the magnificent street and square " — 
no other than the Rue and the Place Royale — 
passed the great church (St. Jacques sur 
Caudenberg) until, turning along the south side, 
she was dismayed by being accosted by " two 
moustachioed men who came suddenly from 
behind the pillars." What pillars were these .'' 

The truth is that at the time when Miss Bronte 
was in Brussels, as is shown by contemporary 
maps, the Rue de la Regence had not yet 
pierced the side of the square ; the Place was 
still shut in, and in the middle of it was a narrow 
way flanked with pillars known as the Passage 
des Colonnes. It was from this sinister recess 
that the rascals emerged and talked to the 
frightened young woman while keeping pace 
with her. They were moustachioed villains — 
a delightfully feminine touch, reminding us of 
those Early Victorian days when moustaches and 
beard were damning attributes, concrete symbols 
of the depravity natural to a foreigner, and 
rarely, save in a few deplorable instances, affected 
by any but the most hardened Englishmen.' 

' It may be recalled how, in the 'Forties, the editor of 
the Art Journal, shocked and incredulous, declined to accept 
as wholly true a newspaper report to the effect that an artist, 
" wearing a moustache," had been arrested for some minor 
misdemeanour at Canterbury and had claimed to be an 
Englishman ! The outraged editor, Mr. Samuel Carter Hall, 


Charlotte Bronte' in Brussels 

What wonder, then, that these two men, with 
"faces looking out of the forest of hair, 
moustache, and whisker," afterwards turned out 
to be the very same two evil-minded dandy pro- 
fessors of the college, MM. Rochemort and Bois- 
sec [shockingly significant names — thoroughly 
appropriate to the hateful bearers of them], who 
basely doubted to Monsieur Paul the genuineness 
of Lucy Snowe's devoir. 

She fled — darting either along the Rue du 
Musee and so on down the Rue Ravenstein, or by 
the Montagne de la Cour and the Rue Ravenstein, 
or the Rue Villa Hermosa. In any case she de- 
scended the steps in which terminates either of these 
parallel lanes — mistaking them for the Belliard 
steps — and found herself in the Rue Terarken. 
Following the street to the right she walked on 
into the " Rue Fossette " (the Rue d'Isabelle), 
and fetched up at the Pensionnat of Madame 
Beck opposite the foot of the Belliard stairway. 
Before this house stood the faltering Lucy Snowe. 
All idea of an inn, thanks to directing if exhaust- 
ing fate, had been renounced, forgotten ; she 
pleaded for admittance, and by good fortune 
found it. Her real life in Villette was begun. 

These same Belliard steps, it will be remem- 
bered, attracted young William Crimsworth in 

refused to believe that an Englishman and an artist would 
so debase himself as to appear in public " in the character 
of a French poodle." 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

The Professor. From the Rue Royalc, oppo- 
site the spot occupied in the seventeenth century 
by the Domus Isabellae — by the Sovereign after 
whom the street below was called — he " con- 
templated the statue of General Belliard " (due 
to the: chisel of one of the brothers Geefs and 
set up very shortly before Charlotte Bronte's 
arrival) " and then I advanced to the top of the 
great staircase beyond, and I looked down into a 
narrow back street, which I afterwards learned 
was called the Rue d'Isabelle. I well recollect 
that my eye rested on the green door of a rather 
large house opposite, where, on a brass plate, was 
inscribed, * Pensionnat de Demoiselles.' " It is 
natural that one endowed with such excellent gift 
of vision should have described so accurately the 
locality in which he was to play an important 

Thus by her talent Miss Bronte transmogrifies 
and develops into a dramatic incident her calm 
arrival in Villette. Is it certain, by the way, 
that this felicitous rechristening of Brussels was 
from the first the author's intention ? We know 
how she changed names which she had originally 
adopted and bettered them by that change. We 
know how " The Master " became " The Pro- 
fessor " ; and how " Lucy Snowe " was tem- 
porarily altered into the equally '* cold name " 
of "Lucy Frost," and then turned back again. 
*'I should like the alteration to be made now 


Charlotte Brontif in Brussels 

throughout the MS.," she wrote to Mr. Williams 
at her publishers'. Was it perhaps a similar 
after-thought that caused her to adopt " Villette " 
in preference to a first idea of " Choseville " ^ 
" The carriage-wheels made a tremendous rattle 
over the flinty Choseville pavement," she says 
in chapter twenty-seven, retaining, perhaps by 
an oversight, the uncorrected name, when Lucy 
Snowe brings Ginevra Fanshawe back to the 
school and administers "a sound moral drubbing" 
on the way. We remember that this same flighty 
Ginevra when asked some months before at what 
place she is going to stay, had replied, " Oh ! at 
— chose^ '* ' ChosCy however, I found in this 
instance, stood for Villette," says Lucy. The 
germ of the idea may perhaps be here, revealing 
the fallible hand of the careless retoucher. But, 
unless I am mistaken, Charlotte Bronte was not 
the first writer to use the name "Villette." 

The aspect of the Rue d'Isabelle, now, alas, 
demolished, is well known, with its school-houses, 
its loftier dwelling-house of the Directress, and 
beyond the row of eight cottages which, in 
the seventeenth century, housed members of 
the aristocratic Guild of Crossbowmen, and 
which now were owned by the circumspect 
Madame Heger lest they should be occupied by 
undesirable neighbours. At the farthest end of 
their property was a Porte Monumentale built by 
the Infanta Isabella as a gateway to the Arba- 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

letricrs' practice-ground, but dismantled in 1910 
and removed by the Brussels municipality for 
re-erection at some future time in the Museum. 
Within stood the old Galerie, with its dated 
sixteenth-century fire-back, used as a place of 
recreation by Madame and the pupils. All these 
faced the Rue d'Isabelle — called by Miss Bronte 
the Rue Fossette, after the Fosse aux Chiens 
which in more ancient days occupied the spot.' 


Facing the Belliard steps, then, was the main 
doorway of the Directress's house, from the 
lofty roof of which Monsieur Heger, when a 
youth taking his share in the struggle in which 
Belgium won her independence — a strange four 
days' battle during which the combatants amiably 
adjourned for refreshments — fired into the park. 
This was in 1830, before he knew the lady 
who six years later was to become his wife. 
To the right extended the school buildings — 
three sides of a square, with the addition of a 
cross " galerie " or corridor which formed a quad, 
or '* cour." Opposite the windows of the private 
house was the Premiere Classe — the classroom 

' It should be remembered that when the road was con- 
structed in order that the Archduchess might have a direct 
private way frohi the Court to Ste. Gudule, it opened into the 
space now occupied by the Place Royalc. 

Charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

of the highest form — the southern doors of which 
led straight out into the " Grand Berceau," and 
the narrow continuation called the " Allee 
Defendue," ' skirting the long parapet wall 
that rose above the retaining wall of the Athenee 
playing-ground many feet below.^ This is the 
wall which Ginevra's elegant and dapper lover, 
the resourceful Comte Alfred de Hamal, would 
scale in order to reach the great acacia-tree. 
This tree "shadowed the Grand Berceau and 
rested some of its branches on the roof of the 
first classe." By climbing this, too, he reached 
the " Grande Salle," and eventually the arms of 
the girl he wooed, first assuming for precaution's 
sake the habit of the terrible Dryad, the ghostly 
Nun. It may well be believed that the tree- 
climbing performance was founded upon a true 
incident, for use has been made of it by both 
sisters — by Charlotte here in Villette^ and by 
Emily in Wuthering Heights^ when Catherine, 
whom the maniacal HeathcliflF was keeping 
prisoner, effected her escape. *' Luckily, light- 
ing on her mother's [chamber], she got easily 
out of its lattice, and on to the ground, by means 

• " Through the glass door [of the Premiere Classe] and 
the arching berceau, I commanded the deep vista of the 
All^e Defendue " {Villette^ chap, xxxvi). 

' Cf. the reference in The Professor to "a bare gravelled 
court, with an enormous pas de giant in the middle, and 
the monotonous walls and windows of a boys* school-house 
round " (chap. vii). 


Charlotte BrotttH : a Centenary Memorial 

of the fir- tree close by." It is unlikely that 
cither sister would have plagiarized from the 
other, but a circumstance known to both could 
by both be used. 

In the great arbour, *' vast and vine-draped," 
known as the Grand Berceau, Mme. Beck 
would teach on summer afternoons ; Lucy, 
too, would hold her class, and Monsieur Paul 
would do his gardening. Miss Bronte's taste was 
for the greater privacy of the Allee Defendue, 
the secluded branch-tunnelled alley forbidden 
to pupils because its low wall flanked the Athenee 
boys' playground some fifteen or twenty feet below. 
She found it a charming retreat for contemplation, 
and it is the scene of manv an incident alike in 
Villette and The Professor. At its southern 
extremity Charlotte places the aged, half-dead 
pear-tree — the mighty patriarch " Methuselah " 
that stood sentinel over the nun's torture-grave 
(as the author invented it). In the hole at its 
root Lucy Snowe buried her treasured letters 
from Dr. Bretton, and returned to it to 
mourn her sad awakening, when she was joined 
by Monsieur Paul in poignant interview, and 
with him witnessed yet again the passing of the 
Nun. It was here, too, that the casket was 
dropped which Dr. Bretton rushed in to reclaim, 
thrown from a window of which more must 
presently be said ; and it was from here that 
the love passage between M. Pelct and Mile. 


charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

Rcuter rose to the ears of Crimsworth seated at 
the lattice above. 

Below in this \vall,i and at its foot, may still 
be seen — for the destruction of this neighbour- 
hood is not yet so complete as has been repre- 
sented — two doorways entered from the level 
of the Athenee courtyard and playground below. 
That nearest to " Methuselah " may be identified 
with the door of communication through which, 
declared Monsieur Paul to Lucy Snowe, he made 
secret entrance from the college to the Pensionnat 
by way of the tool-shed in the upper garden — 
the same tool-shed whence Lucy brought slate 
and mortar to set by way of tombstone on her 
letters' grave. 2 

' The parapet remains, with the coping-stones clamped 
on, in consequence of their having once been shifted through 
the hurricane violence of a storm such as Lucy Snowe 

^ In my Notes on the Brontc-Heger letters published in 
The Times I made the suggestion that the burying of the 
Bretton letters as described with such realistic detail by 
Lucy Snowe might have been inspired by Miss Bronte having 
similarly treated Professor C. Heger's letters at Haworth. 
Thereupon Mr. Percy A. Fielding wrote to The Times to 
point out that he had made the like suggestion to the Bronte 
Society a few months before, and drew attention to the 
fact that in her letters of June 15 and July 30, 1850, 
" there is a reference to certain re-roofing operations that 
were taking place at Haworth Parsonage, and from this 
one may suppose that both slates and material for mortar 
were being used on the premises." It has, I believe, been 


Charlotte Eront'c : a Ctentenary Memorial 

Miss Bronte's descriptions of the garden are 
remarkable in their fidelity to fact, and alleys 
and plantations all aid the development of the 
story. Chief of all is that " alley bordered by 
enormous old fruit trees down the middle," 
many times alluded to, in blossom and in fruit. 
These trees, says Mrs. Gaskell, formed part of 
the orchard that had stood here even before 
the crossbowmen's day. Ancient pear-trees they 
were, famed far beyond the borders of Belgium, 
and visited by fructiculturists from all parts by 
reason of their marvellous qualities. They 
yielded a rich seasonal harvest that was stored 
in cellars extending below the Belliard steps ; 
and for months in each year they regaled the 
inhabitants of the school, who numbered not 
fewer than one hundred and thirty persons at 
the time when " little Georgette " had grown 
to be fruit-keeper and visited the cellars with 
her father to select and fetch the accustomed 


Here we must introduce a new personage, a 
new " original," to Bronte readers and Bronte 
students. This is no other than Monsieur Pelet, 
a leading character in The Professor. This 

shown that no such opportunity for letter-burying — so far 
as a tree is concerned — ever offered itself in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the Parsonage. But the moors ? 


charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

character seems to have puzzled every com- 
mentator. One of them awards him the title-role 
in the book. Some see in him a distorted portrait 
of M. Heger, or at least an individual based 
upon his personality. Others declare his school 
" without disguise, the Athenee " or else place 
it in the Rue d'Isabelle, Others, again, pro- 
nounce M. Pelet, this Fenchman, a figment of 
the author's brain, and write him down in con- 
sequence " unconvincing," and a comparative 
failure, as might be expected in a figure not 
inspired by the life. Every one of these con- 
jectures is incorrect. Mrs. Humphry Ward 
came nearest to the truth when she recognized 
reality in the portrait, and applauded it as " an 
extremely clever sketch." It is strange, indeed, 
that the existence of M, Pelet's school should 
have remained unsuspected among the students 
who have examined Miss Bronte's works under 
the literary microscope, for the bell-ringing 
incident related farther on affords the necessary 

As a matter of fact, M. Pelet was not only 
drawn from life — he was depicted with startling 
veracity so far as externals are concerned ; and 
I am assured by those who knew him that no 
character in the Brussels chapters of the two 
books has been presented with greater truth as 
to appearance and style. M. Pelet was no other 
than Monsieur Lebel, who is still remembered 

97 ^ 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

with respect in Brussels, where he long resided, 
and who towards the end, I believe, returned to 
France. He was the French refugee school- 
master, the man distinguished in air, quiet in 
method, Parisian in characteristics, suave and silky 
in manner. Parisian, indeed, to the finger tips, 
almost elegant in his easy assumption of superi- 
ority which others were made to feel — he was 
exactly as Charlotte Bronte has presented him. 

M. Lebel's school-house for boys stood en 
the north side of the Rue Terarken, beside 
some of the Athenee buildings. The back of 
it, partly veiled by tall shrubs, was pierced by 
a single casement in a lower storey, whence, after 
it had been unbearded, Crimsworth, now one 
of M. Pelet's teachers (and before he had 
developed into a professor at the Athenee itself), 
looked into the garden of the Pensionnat, ^ and 
whence, too, M. Paul Emanuel, cynical psycho- 
logist as he was, instructed by the Jesuit priest, 
the Pere Silas, watched his girl pupils at play 
and at quarrel, and probed the phenomena of 
feminine character in their persons and in the 
persons, too, of the several mistresses, even 
of the Directress herself : for which purpose, 
indeed, he had hired it. If Miss Bronte brings 
out this point, is it not to show that the building 

^ " I shall now at last see the mysterious garden : I shall 
gaze both on the angels and their Eden" {Tht Professor ^ 
chap. viii). 


charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

could not have belonged to the x-Vthenee, other- 
wise the leading professor of that Royal college 
would have taken possession of this post of 
observation as by right of privilege and not of 
leasehold ? It was, as we are told in Villette, 
merely a " boarding-house of the neighbouring 
college, and not the Athenee itself." From an 
" attic loophole high up, opening from the 
sleeping-room " of a servant, there dropped the 
casket intended for Ginevra but delivered by 
fate into the hands of Lucy Snowe. 

M. Lebel does not reappear in Villette. The 
author had used him up in her earlier picture of 
Brussels life. She had done with him and he 
had no part in the new drama of which M. 
Paul was the hero ; there was no room for two 
college directors here. 


To the west of the Pensionnat of the Rue 
d'Isabelle stood the Athenee Roy ale, on a level 
considerably lower. Its buildings, especially at 
their northern extremity, came in contact with 
the Heger School, but the only material and social 
link between the two establishments was the 
common well, still to be seen ruined and 
uncovered. Indeed, laid waste though the site 
now is — for the Athenee has long since been 
removed to the Rue du Chene and its old 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

buildings have been razed — almost unrecog- 
nizable as is the quarter by reason of wholesale 
demolition and vast roadway construction, we 
can at this very moment trace a good many of 
the old landmarks. In the retaining-wall there 
still remain the two large niches which accommo- 
dated the Professor on his estrade — one at each 
end. One of these is beside the old well, to the 
north of it ; the other is where, at the southern 
extremity, we recognize the site of a demolished 

Such was the island of garden and buildings 
which daily met the eyes of Charlotte Bronte 
as the reflective, contemplative English girl trod 
the paths or took refuge for recueillement in her 
small berceau or in the allee dif endue. It was here 
that she evolved her thoughts and meditations : 
in the classroom she learned how to form, to 
order, and to express them. It was truly the 
nursery of her genius, where she was taught that 
nothing is too insignificant for treatment in 
literary expression. Thus the natural acuteness 
of her observation was sharpened ; she missed 
little or nothing ; she acquired the power 
of taking literary advantage of even the most 
trivial incidents and utilizing them with curious 

Here are two examples, which will be new to 
the reader, still spoken of in the Heger and the 
Errera families. 


charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

At the corner of the Rue Royale and the 
opening to the BelJIard steps stands the splendid 
mansion formerly occupied by the well-known 
banker, M. Errera, now belonging to his widow. 
It is noteworthy enough in its exterior aspect, 
but exceptionally beautiful within, exquisitely 
designed, and famous for its occupation by the 
Napoleonic chief during the French ascendancy 
in Brussels. The basement of it was on a level 
with an upper floor of the Pensionnat Heger 
and separated from it but by the width of the 
street and the houses on its hither side. In 
this basement during the absence of the family 
one of the footmen would frequently exercise 
his exceptional talent on the French horn. 
This trivial circumstance, always remembered in 
the Heger household, was utilized by Miss 
Bronte with much effect in The Professor^ 
without, of course, revealing its very domestic 
source : — "Here a strain of music stole in upon 
my monologue," says Crimsworth, " and sus- 
pended it ; it was a bugle, very skilfully played, 
in the neighbourhood of the park, I thought, 
or on the Place Royale. . . . The strain retreated, 
its sound waxed fainter and fainter, and was 
soon gone ; my ear prepared to repose on the 
absolute hush of midnight once more." And 
when he listened again it was the love-talk of 
Mile. Reuter and M. Pelet of which he was 
the unwilling auditor. 


Charlotte Bronte': a Centenary Memorial 

The bell-ringing incident, again, as has already 
been said, has its importance : — 

At the conclusion of Crimsworth's first lesson 
at Mile. Reuter's pensionnat^ " a bell clanging 
out in the yard announced the moment for the 
cessation of school labours. I heard our own 
bell at the same time, and that of a certain 
public college immediately after " ; that is to 
say, the first bell sounded was at Mile. Reuter's 
in the Rue d'Isabelle ; the second was at 
M. Pelet's, where Crimsworth was in residence ; 
and the third at the Athenee Royale — the usual 
order. Later on, the incipient flirtation between 
Mile. Reuter and her young English professor 
Crimsworth is broken short by the dinner-bell 
which rang out " both at her house and M. 

Beyond these immediate confines we may note 
the historic Maison Ravenstein ; next, the former 
Court Chapel hard by the entrance to the present 
Musee Moderne,' where Crimsworth sought for 
his lost Frances Henri ; the Palais des Academies, 
which seems to be indicated as the scene of the 
Athenee prize-giving, where the little finale of 

' Here are held the Art Exhibitions which Lucy Snowe 
criticized with such clear and just perception. Her views on 
art were marked by freedom and sanity unusual in Early 
Victorian days, especially in the provinces. 

1 02 

charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

M. Paul's " quen dites-vous F '' to Lucy Snowe 
after his lecture is a little maliciously adapted 
from Thackeray's similar question to Miss Bronte 
after his own address. And in the Rue Royale 
stood the old Hotel Mengelle (formerly a great 
apartment-house and now rebuilt into a modern 
hotel of the smartest and most elegant order) 
which Bronte critics by common consent aver is 
identical with a house of importance in the story 
— the Hotel Crecy of the Rue Crecy. 

In this view, when all the circumstances are 
taken into account, it is impossible to acquiesce. 

Those who have been familiar with the old 
Hotel Mengelle, and who retain a clear recollec- 
tion of its construction, its general aspect and 
architecture, cannot, surely, recognize in it " the 
sumptuous Hotel Crecy," where lived the little 
Countess Paulina de Bassompierre with her father, 
even though every allowance be made for some 
decline from pristine splendour. When Ginevra 
Fanshawe elopes with the Comte de Hamal and 
their carriage dashes northwards (as is demon- 
strable) along the Rue des Douze Apotres, we 
are told that " neither the Hotel Crecy nor the 
Chateau de la Terrasse lies in that direction." 
This could not be said of the Hotel Mengelle 
in the Rue Royale. Moreover, we are told as 
well of a Boulevard de Crecy with its Carmelite 
convent^ and of a Porte de Crecy, all details of 
matter-of-fact topography. Where, then, are 


charlotte Bront? : a Centenary Memorial 

these ? What is there to correspond with 
them ? The answer is clear, and should, I think, 
be final. 

The in-dwellers of Brussels will tell you — 
what Charlotte Bronte practically tells us her- 
self — that the most probable solution of the puzzle 
(a solution to satisfy every point raised) is to be 
found not in the Rue Royaie at all, but in the 
Boulevard de Waterloo with its occasional fine 
houses, its Petits Carmes convent and its Eglise 
des Carmes, the Porte de Hal, and, opposite to 
it, the Chaussee de Waterloo, which led towards 
the picturesque outskirts a mile and more away 
that might well provide the locale of the Bret- 
tons' home, " La Terrasse." Here, then, you 
have the Boulevard, the town gate, the 
Carmelite convent, and the direction all as 
indicated. Moreover, in the Rue Crecy Lucy 
Snowe takes her German lessons. Would 
honest Fraulein Anna Braun have found lodg- 
ment in the '* palatial " Rue Royaie ? And 
to reach it would Lucy and Paulina have taken 
the " nearest way " by the Place Royaie and 
entered the park ? The reiteration of the name 
should be some indication. What is more im- 
portant is the close connexion of idea between 
the two epoch-making victories, Crecy and 
Waterloo, Mrs. Gaskell tells us that Charlotte 
" worshipped the Duke of Wellington," that the 
Duke " had been her hero from childhood." 


Charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

Her admirable devoir^ "Sur la mort de Napo- 
leon," we remember, contained a passionate yet 
reasoned eulogy on the victor at the expense of 
the fallen Emperor. Charlotte Bronte's relative 
silence on the subject, alike in her letters and in her 
novels, has been the subject of remark ; here, at 
least, is reason to believe that she had Waterloo 
in her mind — she who had lived so long close to 
the battlefield where the struggle was fought out 
the year before she was born — but was debarred 
by her scheme of pseudonymity from mentioning 
it by name. So Crecy became an irreproachable 
substitute, offering a mystery not too obscure for 
solution. At the time when Villette was being 
written the Duke was sinking, and died in 
September 1852 : the event may likely enough 
have given a turn to the author's thoughts and 
influenced her choice of venue. Surely, as to the 
identity of the Boulevard de Waterloo, the Car- 
melite convent should settle the matter definitely. 
Within the space of a few hundred square 
yards, with her mind's eye manifestly fixed upon 
a map such as has since been devised and pub- 
lished. Miss Bronte could depict a scene as 
brilliant and varied as that of the Patriotic Fdte 
in the park and build up one of the most im- 
portant and significant chapters in the book, all 
the while accounting to herself for every step 
taken by the narrator. By the Rue Terarken, 
up the steps of the Rue Villa Hermosa, across 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

the Place Royale walks Lucy Snowe, and, passing 
through the gate opposite the Hotel Bellevue (the 
frontage of the hostelry pitted with bullet-holes), 
she enters the park — then and for some years later 
surrounded by a mere palisade and not by its 
present imposing iron railing. Her passage from 
spot to spot is described too clearly to be mistaken. 
She seeks to wend her way to one of the two 
*' stone basins," with its clear green water — pro- 
bably the one nearer to the Royal Palace ; and 
she is here recognized by M. Miret — a genuine 
character, by the way, sketched with great 
accuracy from the excellent bookseller to the 
Pensionnat Heger. She passes along the alleys, 
wanders to the "green knoll" — the raised ground 
crowned by a seat which was shadowed by " three 
fine tall trees growing close " — the spot where 
the "secret junta" unwittingly reveals to the 
listening Lucy the answer to the riddle hitherto 
unsolvable. Then she quits the park, descends 
the dimly lighted Montagne du Pare ^ (" only 
one street lies between me and the Rue 
Fossette " — necessarily the Rue des Douze 
Apotres and no other), when the eloping Ginevra 
thunders past, as already recounted ; and so home 
— to find the Nun's "ghost" deposited in her 

' Where lived the priest of Ste. Gudule to whom Miss 
Brontf confessed. This presumably should be the Rue des 
Mages of Vilktte — a set-ofF to the real Rue des Minimes. 


charlotte Brontl' in Brussels 

This is but a type of Charlotte Bronte's 
method, and it may suffice. Thus did she work 
up her backgrounds and plan her goings and 
comings, lavishing upon them as much care and 
deliberation as upon the stories she constructed 
and set against them. The method is sound in 
relation to her talent, for while it imparts to 
her incidents an aspect of stereoscopic relief, her 
art subdues the over-insistence on the cold fact 
of the decor, so that the reality which is evolved 
grips us as a quietly convincing truth. 


Later inquirers have not always understood 
that the premises in the Rue d'Isabelle were not 
left unchanged after the Bronte sisters' departure. 
In 1857 important alterations were effected in 
the dwelling-house, but the school-house was 
left pretty much as it was. The institution had 
already become a place of pilgrimage to both 
English and Americans. The devotees who 
could scarcely have been very welcome to the 
misrepresented and injured chiefs of the school, 
were courteously received, notwithstanding, and 
shown all the points of interest concentrated in 
Charlotte Bronte's pages. *' And this," they 
would ask, " is this really the Carre ? — this the 
Refectoire .? " — or what not ; and then some- 
times a whitening head would thrus^ itself forth 


charlotte Bront? : a Centenary Memorial 

from a suddenly opened door and snap out, but 
not angrily, " Oiii ! — et mot je suis Monsieur 
Paul ! " 

And now, where this busy little world that 
hummed with life in the educational centre of 
the Rue d'Isabelle and helped to form and 
develop characters which have stood the test in 
these later days of trial is a scene of cruel 
desolation. Houses and school buildings have 
gone. Rubble strews the ground, and a broken 
branch, thrusting its torn limb through the 
rubbish here and there, is all that is left of the 
historic garden. Yet the destruction, as has here 
been said, is not entirely complete, and (where 
the encroachments of the vast new works have 
not wholly covered up or overturned it) suffi- 
cient evidence still remains for the practised 
explorer to reconstitute, in part at least, the old 
flourishing institutions and buildings that clustered 
round the spot. Even the first out of the 
four flights of steps of the Escalier Belliard may 
yet be seen, though they, too, are to be swal- 
lowed up, as soon as may be, when peace returns 
to heroic Belgium, by the rising road mount- 
ing to the Rue Royale. A pictorial record of 
some fullness will doubtless one day be issued 
illustrating the temporary home of the honoured 
sisters, for the material for it exists. Bronte- 
H*eger-land is not destined to pass unpictured 
and forgotten ; its scenes will live for us and 

1 08 

Charlotte Bronte in Brussels 

bring nearer to us the more tutored genius of 

Charlotte Bronte, to whom, on the centenary 

of her birth, the tribute of our homage is paid 




Cf)e iHfeses ^Bronte's establishment 


^W^'^'Mmh---- Am):- v'muiA'MmT'^P 





£. s. d. 
J5oARD AND Education, including Writing, Arithmetic, Hi3-"\ 

tory. Grammar, Geography, and Needle Work, perl 35 
Annum, j 

French, . . \ 

German, . . [■ . - . . each per Quarter, J J 

Latin . . J 

' ' ' i .. .. each per Quarter, 1 1 

Drawing, . . y 

Use of Piano Forte, per Quarter, 05 

Washing, per Quarter, 15 

Each Young Lady to be provided with One Pair ol Sheets, Pillow Cases, Four Towels, 
a Dessert and Tea-spoon. 

A Quarter's Notice, or a Quarter's Board, is required previous to the 
Removal of a Pupil. 


To face p. no. 




In the early days of this Great War, when no 
one had thought for literary anniversaries, there 
passed unnoticed the twenty-first birthday of 
the Bronte Society. It is a rare event in literary 
history for such an association to attain to its 
** coming of age." The mortality of infancy 
and adolescence is high among literary societies ; 
or perhaps it should be considered that since, 
like the " flies of latter spring," they come fully 
equipped and in the maxim of energy into their 
little world, it is but the course of nature that 
their days are short. They 

lay their eggs, and sting and sing, 
/eave their pretty cells and die. 

And weave 

A good many societies have been founded in 
England with purpose akin to that of the 
Bronte Society, with very diverse fields to cul- 
tivate, yet only one — the Chaucer Society — has 
attained to such length of years ; and in that 

113 H 

charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

case, brilliantly exceptional, the longevity of the 
society was rather evidence of the inexhaustible 
youthfulness of its founder and vital spirit, the 
late Dr. Furnivall, than of its own inherent 
virility. With good reason Furnivall called it 
" my Chaucer Society," and it endured and 
laboured nearly thirty years in the strength of 
his will, till he permitted it to sing its Nunc 
dimittis over the great Oxford edition of the 
" master dear and father reverent " of English 
poets, the production of which its studies had 
rendered possible. 

Even though they had an inexhaustible 
mountain in which to quarry, the two Shake- 
spere Societies fell far short of this record. 
The original society, sustained by the industry 
of Halliwell-Phillipps and the enthusiasm — the 
somewhat intemperate enthusiasm, as was un- 
happily proved — of John Payne Collier, lasted 
from 1 84 1 to 1853. The New Shakesperc 
Society, another of Dr. Furnivall's literary 
children, strong in purpose, prolonged its exist- 
ence to some eighteen years, yet was its strength 
labour and sorrow ere it was " cut off." Other 
co-operative efforts of literature have all been 
comparatively transient. The Wordsworth 
Society endured as *' a bond of union amongst 
those who are in sympathy with the general 
teaching and' spirit of Wordsworth " for not 
quite six years ; and, whether it be true or not, 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

as Dean Church grumbled, that " Words- 
worthians " fared rather badly at the hands of 
the Wordsworth Society, the sympathetic souls 
had dwindled to the secretary and another — 
the industrious Professor Knight and one patient 
committee-man — before the Society made up its 
mind that Grasmere and the mountains consti- 
tuted, after all, a stronger and more enduring 
bond of union. The Shelley Society fared even 
worse. It was late in the field. The name of 
Shelley had, as Lord Houghton exulted, been 
already raised by the youth of Oxford from 
" the obscurity and even the infamy " which 
had attached to it in earlier days, and there was 
not much work to do. The society survived, 
however, long enough to consecrate, under the 
leadership of Tennyson, a library as memorial 
and shrine at the poet's birthplace at Horsham, 
but otherwise left little mark in history. The 
Browning Society existed but a dozen years — 
from 1 88 1 to 1893. Perhaps some local Brown- 
ing Societies less fatally authoritative attained to 
a mellower age in different parts of the country 
— their number was at one time considerable ; 
but it is sad to remember that the young ladies 
of Girton exhausted Browning — or themselves — 
even during the poet's lifetime. In i886 they 
dissolved their Browning Society, and by vote 
of the members spent the accumulated balance 
of funds upon chocolates. To some poets such 


Charlotte Bront'e : a Centenary Memorial 

desertion of high intellectuality for the sensuous 
pleasures which cloy (and spoil the digestion) 
might have been as heart-breaking as a Qjuarterly 
Review attack. But Browning had a sense of 
humour. How his eyes must have twinkled ! 
Perhaps some day some philosophic bookworm, 
some twentieth-century Isaac D'Israeli, sym- 
pathetic with the calamities which beset litera- 
ture on its co-operative and corporate side as well 
as in its individualistic aspect, will set himself to 

find out the cause of this effect, 
Or rather say the cause of" this detect. 
For this effect defective comes by cause. 

Unless in these latter days the art of keeping 
a diary has become as atrophied as the art of 
writing letters, there ought to be on record 
somewhere, and well worthy of collection, much 
pungent anecdotage concerning literary associa- 
tions. Meanwhile, perhaps no one has come 
closer to an analysis of the centrifugal forces 
which disperse such organizations than Mr. 
Max Beerbohm, whose caustic caricature of 
" Mr. Browning taking tea with the Browning 
Society " needs no single word of comment. 

No imagination, even Mr. Max Beerbohm's 
own, has risen to the conception of Charlotte 
or Emily or Anne Bronte serving tea at Ha worth 
Parsonage to the members of the Bronte Society. 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

Emily would have resented the intrusion, but 
of Charlotte one is not so sure. Though 
Charlotte confessed to a cold sweat when 
Martha Brown, the Parsonage servant — who 
was promptly snubbed — proclaimed her discovery 
that the mistress had " been and written the 
grandest books that ever were seen " and inti- 
mated that a meeting was to be held at the 
Mechanics' Institute to settle about ordering 
them, one can hardly doubt that she would 
have faced the situation with the calm courage 
with which she administered a "comfortable 
cup of tea " to Mr, Donne — the curate of 
Shirley^ who did not like Yorkshire folk — while 
she sat on guard, ready at a moment's notice 
to *' have it out with him." But the right to 
existence of such a society is not the attitude 
in which we may fancy it confronted by the 
author it studies, but its usefulness in its own 
day. "It is for my generation and myself 
that I want the Society in being," said one of 
the founders of the Browning Society at its 
inauguration ; and every lover of the works of 
the Brontes, and every reader whose heart has 
been touched and quickened at the story of the 
Brontes, has had reason to congratulate himself 
and his generation that the work of the Bronte 
Society has been carried forward with so much 
enthusiasm and industry during these twenty-one 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

The Bronte Society had its origin in a con- 
versation which took place towards the end 
of the year 1893 in the private office of 
Mr. Butler Wood, the chief librarian of the 
Bradford Public Libraries. The incident is 
unrecorded in the archives of the Society, but 
Mr. Wood's memory is that there took part in 
it Mr. J. Horsfall Turner, of Idle, near 
Bradford, Mr. W. W. Yates, of Dewsbury, 
and Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Brigg, M.P., of 

The first suggestion came from Mr. Horsfall 
Turner. Mr. Horsfall Turner was an anti- 
quary of rare energy, who has left in our libraries 
a whole shelf-ful of memorials of his enter- 
prise. The Bronte episode he took almost in 
his stride from Saxon charters to modern politics 
of a characteristically vigorous idiosyncrasy. But 
Charlotte Bronte was nevertheless a particular 
interest of his, and enjoying as he did excep- 
tional advantages at one period of his life, 
through his friendship with Miss Ellen Nussey — 
Charlotte's lifelong friend and confidant — he 
demonstrated the depth of his enthusiasm by 
preparing and printing in their entirety that 
precious series of letters which Miss Nussey 
had the prescience to preserve. Unluckily for 
himself, Mr. Turner's enterprise took insuffi- 
cient account of the trammels of the law of 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

copyright, and the whole edition printed had 
to be destroyed. So that a copy of Mr. Horsfall 
Turner's Story of the Brontes is now among the 
rarest of bibliographical curiosities. It was, how- 
ever, a literary calamity modified by some con- 
solation, for the suppression left the field clear 
for the fuller collection of the Bronte letters 
to many correspondents which in due season 
Mr. Clement Shorter gave to us in his two 
fine volumes. The Brontes : Life and Letters. 
And those readers who cherish the format as 
well as the matter of a book will congratulate 
themselves that they have in Mr. Shorter's fair 
print and paper books worthy of the story 
they tell. Mr. Turner's books unfortunately 
revealed him as austerely Puritan in artistic 
matters as the seventeenth-century divines who 
— beside the Brontes — were his literary heroes. 
Mr. Turner's original conception for a Bronte 
Club — as he called it — was strictly utilitarian, 
and was free of any tinge of what critics of 
the Browning Society reproved as idolatry. 
He proposed a small body strictly limited in 
numbers, and in the main composed of those 
who had written on the Brontes — headed, as 
he hoped, by Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Birrell, Sir 
Leslie Stephen, and Sir Wemyss Reid ; and the 
programme of work which he projected was 
mainly the preparation of a complete and 
exhaustive bibliography of Bronte literature, 


Charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

and as a secondary object the preservation of 
such traditions of the Brontes as might still be 
current in the dales and moorlands of the 
Worth valley. 

Mr, Butler Wood accords the credit for the 
wider lines upon which the idea developed to 
Mr. Yates, though it may be suspected that 
his own literary tastes had something to do 
with the matter. Mr. Yates attached great 
weight to the personal traditions yet to be 
collected. His keen devotion to his own town 
of Dewsbury made the Bronte episode in a 
sense a chapter of the local history, since it 
was as curate of the church of that ancient 
parish that the father of the .Brontes first appeared 
in Yorkshire. Mr. Yates favoured also the 
idea of establishing a Bronte Museum — an insti- 
tution in which might be brought together 
such relics as were interesting of the remark- 
able family, and all that might be gathered of 
their literary remains. And it was an organiza- 
tion on these lines which ultimately came to 
birth. One may say here, anticipating the 
march of events somewhat, that while the 
Society may well look to these two men, 
Mr. Horsfall Turner and Mr. Yates, with 
filial respect, it honours also with especial ten- 
derness among those whose services it has lost 
by death the memory of Sir John Brigg. Sir 
John Brigg was native 'to the soil he long 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

represented in Parliament : he had grown up 
in the very atmosphere in which the Brontes 
moved and had their being. Where few had 
known the Brontes in anything more than 
externals, he had known about them from his 
earliest days. So that it was more than his 
keen Yorkshire intellect and his literary taste 
which made him an untiring reader and a 
devoted admirer of the great books which came 
down from Haworth through Keighley to the 
world. The Bronte Society, then, was nursed 
and nourished by Sir John Brigg from its infancy, 
though his part in its development was achieved 
so unostentatiously that few outside the Council 
of the Society realized the energy he put into the 
Society's affairs. They were glad occasionally 
after a moorland ramble at Haworth to take 
tea at the liberally spread tables over which he 
presided as host, but Sir John Brigg's services 
to the Society were far more intimate than all 
that alone implies. 

The first public step was the issue in the 
name of the then Mayor of Bradford (the late 
Alderman Jonas Whitley) of invitations to a 
conference, upon December i6, 1893, at the 
Bradford Town Hall, " to consider the advis- 
ability of forming a Bronte Society and Museum." 
The Rev. W. H. Keeling, for many years head- 
master of the Bradford Grammar School, was 
voted to the chair, and it may be interesting to 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

record the names of those present. They were : 
Messrs. E. Alexander, F. C. Barrans, G. Bell ; 
Hugh Bingham (Oakenshaw) ; Alderman (after- 
wards Sir) John Brigg (Kildwick) ; J. J. Brigg 
(Keighley) ; W. M. Brookes ; John Clough, jun, 
(Steeton) ; the Rev. J. W. Dunne (Laisterdyke) ; 
C. A. Federer, George Field, W. T. Field ; 
Geddes (Liverpool) ; J. A. (afterwards Sir Arthur) 
Godwin ; James Gordon ; Herbert Hardy 
(Earlsheaton) ; H. Hartley (Morton) ; T. H. 
Horsfall ; the Rev. W. T. Key worth (Halifax) ; 
H. F. Killick, Edmund Lee, W. T. McGowen, 
Town Clerk of Bradford ; Frank Peel (Heck- 
mondwike) ; Collingwood Pollard (Thornton) ; 
John Popplewell (long Chairman of the Bradford 
Free Libraries Committee) ; Percival Ross ; 
W. Scruton ; A. B. Smith (Keighley) ; J. J. 
Stead (Heckmondwike) ; J. A. Erskine Stuart 
(Batley) ; J. H. Tattersfield (Mirfield) ; Robert 
Thornton (Heckmondwike) ; J. Horsfall Turner 
(Idle) ; S. P. Unwin (Shipley) ; C. Watson, 
F. Denby Wheater (Haworth) ; Butler Wood, 
W. W. Yates (Dewsbury), Miss Yates. En- 
couraging letters and messages were also received 
from Messrs. W. Ackroyd (Birkenshaw) ; the 
Rev. Canon Bardsley (Vicar of Bradford) ; 
Jonathan Caldwell (Brighouse) ; the Rt. Rev. 
Dr. Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon ; the 
Rev. Canon Lowther Clarke (Vicar of Dewsbury 
and afterwards Bishop of Melbourne) ; the Misses 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

Cockshott (Oakworth) ; Alderman (afterwards 
the Right Hon.) C. Milnes Gaskell (Wakefield) 
Mr. (afterwards Sir) Mark Oldroyd, M.P. 
Mr. Asa H. Pyrah (Mayor of Dewsbury) 
Mr. W. E. B. (afterwards Sir William) Priest- 
ley ; Mr. (afterwards Sir) T. Wemyss Reid, 
Mr. George Smith, the veteran head of the 
firm of Smith, Elder & Co. — Charlotte Bronte's 
publishers ; Mr. William Smith (Morley) ; 
Mr. Harry Speight (Bingley) ; Mrs. C. E. 
Sugden (Haworth) ; Mrs. Stevenson (Market 
Harborough) ; Mr. W. Douglas Walker (New 
York) ; Mr. A. H. Wall (Shakespere Museum, 
Stratford-on-Avon) ; Mr. Josiah Winn (Hali- 
fax) ; Mr. (afterward Sir) Joseph Woodhead 

Encouraged with the promise of success in 
numbers and influence — so much beyond the 
expectation of the original promoters — the meet- 
ing proceeded in high spirits to resolve — 

That a Bronte Society be and is hereby formed, and 
that the objects of such Society be, amongst other 
things, to establish a Museum to contain not only 
drawings, manuscripts, paintings, and other personal 
relics of the Bronte family, but all editions of their 
works, the writings of authors upon these works, or 
upon any member of the family, together with photo- 
graphs of places or premises with which the family 
was associated. 

Upon this basis the Bronte Society came into 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

existence. It continued to work upon these 
simple lines as a literary association, until the 
growing wealth of its collections and a conse- 
quent sense of responsibility rendered the Council 
appointed to deal with the Society's affairs 
anxious that the existence and purpose of their 
organization should in due form be made known 
to the law of the land. Consequently in 1902 
the Society secured a certificate of Incorporation 
under the Companies Act, 1862. 

In its primary task of establishing a Museum 
of Bronte relics the Society has had a great 
measure of success. The first question which 
arose was that of situation. The literary pilgrim 
may well think that the question settles itself, and 
that only amid the *' heath-clad showery hills " 
of Haworth where those " unquiet souls " found 
themselves would such an institution be in its 
true atmosphere. But there were difficult ques- 
tions of accommodation and guardianship to be 
arranged, and some members of the Council 
thought the permanence of the institution and 
appeal to the widest possible circle of readers 
dictated the establishment of the collection in 
one of the larger towns or cities of the West 
Riding. Mr. Yates urged the claims of Dews- 
bury — others thought Bradford a quite natural 
as well as convenient centre, for were not the 
Bronte sisters born in Thornton, within the 
boundaries of the old parish and the modern 


The Bronte Society and its IVork 

city of Bradford ? Haworth, of whom hard 
things have in the past most unjustly been 
said, was not unmindful of its own. Haworth 
Bronte lovers — and they ever were numerous 
— took a good part in the organization of the 
Society, and the governing body of the district, 
with local patriotism, pressed the claims of their 
little moorland town. It was, however, only 
upon a divided vote of six to four that Haworth 
was chosen — though the minute-book of the 
Society takes note of the fact that before the 
voting was reached the Haworth members of 
the Council had trustfully left to catch their 
train. There has never been a moment of doubt 
since that the decision was wise. 

The ideal locality for the Museum comme- 
morating the Brontes would obviously be the 
Parsonage-house consecrated by the romance 
and tragedy of their lives. Precedents as well 
as sentiment pointed a finger in that direction. 
The chief shrine of Shakesperians at Stratford- 
on-Avon is naturally the poet's birthplace ; that 
of lovers of Milton the little Buckinghamshire 
cottage, wreathed in sweetbrier and vine and 
the twisted eglantine, which must ever have 
remained in the inward eye of the poet in his 
days of blindness as the very picture of rural 
delight. The Scottish literary pilgrim turns to 
the little thatched clay biggin of but and ben on 
the road to Alloway, where Burns first saw the 


charlotte Bronte: a Centenary Memorial 

light, with even greater charm perhaps than to 
the pretentious but (let it be confessed) rather 
clumsy magnificence of Abbotsford. And there 
are in this land of ours simple homes richly 
" humanized " — as Mrs. Browning put it — with 
cherished associations, standing as memorials 
of Bunyan, Carlyle, Stevenson, and Barrie, of 
Cowper the poet, of Borrow and Fitzgerald. 
Above all in appeal, perhaps, is the Dove 
Cottage at the Town End of Grasmere — that 
'* little nook of mountain ground " — " the 
loveliest spot that man hath ever found " — which 
is inseparably associated with Wordsworth's days 
of poverty and genius. The difficulties in the 
way of securing the Haworth Parsonage to house 
the Bronte Society's collections have hitherto 
proved insuperable. The building is vested in 
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they are 
bound to administer their estates on the strictest 
business principles without fear, favour, or literary 
sentiment. The difficulties are primarily thus 
a matter of finance, and then perhaps of red 
tape. The red tape would probably be easy to 
cut, but for the present the Society has not 
felt itself in a financial position to go to the 
Commissioners with a proposal for the purchase 
or the leasing of the old Parsonage. The 
securing of that building, so rich in memories, 
is, however, an ideal by no means lost 
sight of. 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

In other rooms — premises without romance 
but with convenience enough for the present 
and just at the head of the steep village street 
by the church — the little Museum has been 
arranged. It is to be supposed, of course, that 
the officers of a society formed to do honour to 
the Brontes would be gratified to find the Brontes 
already high in honour with the collectors, but 
the circumstances must have been also just a 
little embarrassing. Even if the American 
millionaires had not commenced to lay up for 
themselves treasures of a literary character, 
prices for the more desirable of Bronte manu- 
scripts might reasonably be framed on a consider- 
able scale. Emily's and Anne's autographs are 
not very much more numerous than those 
of Shakespere himself, for after their deaths 
Charlotte destroyed nearly all within her reach ; 
and Charlotte's own, though not rare, are almost 
always so characterful that the slightest scrap 
of her writing is sure to be cherished as of 
interest. With her, of course, the autograph 
collector knows nothing of the mere common- 
places of life, the uninspiring acceptances of 
invitations to dinner or excuses for their refusal, 
and the like, which mark the course through the 
world of most successful authors. So that the 
Society's representative has had to bite his lip 
when collections of letters and even single docu- 
ments have been offered in the sale-rooms and 


Chanotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

have attracted bids altogether beyond the Society's 
resources to compete. 

Such esteem in the market has brought other 
dangers. That apt and versatile rascal the 
literary forger has been tempted to try his hand 
at supplying the demands, and there have been 
from time to time at least a few proved forgeries 
of Bronte documents put before the public, and 
others much to be suspected. Even a great 
institution like the National Portrait Gallery, 
for all the learning and critical acumen of its 
staff, has not been proof against these dangers, as 
the unlucky picture of " Charlotte Bronte " 
*' wearin' of the green " bought in 1906 proved. 

Moreover the Bronte Museum is not merely a 
collection of literary and artistic objects, the 
genuineness of which may be tested, but it 
includes objects of domestic association with the 
family. As may be imagined, these present 
frequent difficulties of provenance, due not to 
dishonesty but (shall one say ?) to the charitable 
disposition of the owner to give his rather doubt- 
ful treasure all the benefit of the doubt. Thus 
some curious facts have come to light. For 
instance, there are extant no fewer than five 
pianos from the Bronte household. Who would 
have supposed that a household so small, with 
so little money for superfluities, and in musical 
matters of no particular virtuosity, could have 
had use for that number of instruments.? 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

Spectacles worn by the Rev. Patrick Bronte are 
in the hands of dealers in such matters as 
numerous as though some member of the family 
of the incumbent of Haworth had, like the un- 
lucky heir of his neighbour the Vicar of Wake- 
field, bought a bargain lot at the fair. It is 
only just to say, however, that such relics of 
unequivocal authenticity are rather numerous. 
Indeed, three pairs have been admitted to the 

Steering a cautious way amid these dangers, the 
Council of the Society has laid the foundation 
of an excellent and most interesting collection. 
No doubt now that, when the permanence of the 
organization and the evergreen freshness of the 
Bronte story in the public mind have been proved 
by time, Bronte collectors who have collected 
for love and not for " an investment " will 
appreciate the opportunity of handing to the 
Society's guardianship treasures which they do 
not choose to imagine scattered to the winds in 
the sordid profanation of the auction. Already 
at least one distinguished American Bronte 
enthusiast, and more than one on this side of the 
Atlantic, has intimated privately to the Council 
of the Society an intention to " remember in his 
will " the little institution at Haworth. 

Little space need here be devoted to a review 
of the collection, for there has been issued among 
the Society's publications an annotated and illus- 

129 I 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

trated catalogue of the Museum, compiled by the 
Hon. Secretary, Mr. W. T. Field. The Bronte 
student, it may, however, be said, will feel that 
all goes well and upon the right lines. Already 
the series of portraits is fairly full. No one, of 
course, will grudge the fact that Richmond's 
drawing of Charlotte Bronte is here only in 
reproduction. The original is in the National 
Portrait Gallery — where it ought to be ; and 
Branwell Bronte's portrait, too, of his sister Emily, 
for all its technical imperfections, sustains, not 
without dignity, a great name among her peers 
in the national collection. The Bronte Society 
has, however, a number of pencil sketches by 
Branwell of his sisters and a water-colour of 
Emily which is probably by him, though it has 
come to be attributed to Charlotte's own hand. 
But Charlotte certainly drew a portrait of her 
sister Anne which is very welcome here. Anne 
was the beauty of the family, and the picture 
suggests a sweet expression of countenance, though 
her neck is hardly " in drawing," as an artist 
would say. But we must remember that the 
*' Books of Beauty " of the time favoured for 
ladies a peculiar elongation of neck. Tom 
Moore set forth the ideal throat for a lady as 
** swan-like," and the ideal has evidently affected 
the real in Charlotte's picture. As for Branwell 
himself, there is here a silhouette — a work not 
without a great deal of character — and a large 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

and well modelled medallion by Leyland of 
Halifax, who was one of his associates in the 
days when Branwell's optimism foresaw fame and 
fortune as a painter. The original daguerreo- 
type of the father, heavily stocked, and grimmer 
in expression than the worst gossip of Haworth 
ever made him in reality, is here, and beside it 
is a water-colour picture by a professional like- 
ness-maker of Mrs. Bronte, endorsed laconically 
by the old man " This is my wife." Mr, Bronte 
did not wear his heart on his sleeve. Of those 
who came within the Bronte orbit a very good 
series has been accumulated. There are gaps 
yet to be filled, but the institution has become 
the natural depositary for the portraits of the 
notabilities of the country-side, and many of those 
who figure in the novels or are named in the 
letters are represented. Of personal souvenirs of 
the Brontes there are many. Charlotte's hus- 
band, the Rev. Arthur Bell NichoUs, who had so 
brief a married life after his long and patient 
waiting for her hand, preserved his wife's demure 
wedding-dress and bridal bouquet, and they are 
here. From his keeping, half a century after 
Charlotte's death, came also toys from the 
Haworth nursery, painting appliances, and inti- 
mate treasures like desks and work-boxes, which 
apparently had never been opened since Charlotte 
herself closed the lids. In one of them, among 
other cherished trifles, was found the silver medal 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

which Charlotte gained at Miss Wooler's school 
at Roe Head. Miss Nussey has told the storv 
of this relic. The medal was a trophy at the 
school, to be worn for the time being by the girl 
who most distinguished herself in "the fulfilment 
of duties," Charlotte won it in her first half- 
year at school, and never had to pass it on to a 
more exemplary companion, so that upon her 
leaving the school the medal was presented to her. 
One feels that such a relic is in its proper place 
in the Museum. There are pencil and water- 
colour drawings by almost every member of the 
family — very numerous examples by Charlotte, 
including a really spirited drawing of her dog 
Floss, but most of them are precise and painful 
reproductions of steel engravings or lithographs. 
Their interest is mainly their disclosure of an 
imaginative interest in the Haydon and Stothard 
type of composition hardly tolerable to the 
modern generation of art-lovers. A drawing by 
Emily of her faithful and much loved bull-dog 
Keeper — who himself played his part in Shirley^ 
and is remembered as having broken-heartedly 
followed his young mistress's cofifin into the very 
church — this is priceless. 

The budding literary ambition is represented 
by the microscopic magazines written by the 
children in the Haworth nursery — those queer 
little compositions in which they practised their 
'prentice hands in wild poetry, and wilder prose. 


Q 3 

The Hronte Society and its Work 

A good many of BranweU's compositions are in 
the collection. Those of the sisters have pro- 
duced such prodigious prices in the sale-rooms 
that the Society has had to content itself with a 
specimen and await the generosity of its friends. 
Then, of course, there are duly represented the 
books by which fame came — the poems and then 
the novels. Most of these are in modern editions 
or translations. First editions will no doubt 
come some day. The first step in the ladder of 
fame is represented here, and one rejoices in the 
circumstance that it has been preserved. Every 
one remembers that of the little book of poems 
on the publication of which the sisters expended 
a bequest from their aunt only two copies were 
sold. One of these somehow came into the hands 
of Frederick Enoch, the author of the song, once 
famous, " My sweetheart when a boy." His 
perception was sufficiently acute to recognize 
genius in the work, and he wrote to the unknown 
poetesses for their autographs. Here is the sheet 
of demurely written signatures — " Currer Bell," 
" Ellis Bell " and " Acton Bell "—in hands un- 
mistakably feminine, which was sent in response 
to the request, but cautiously posted in London, 
through the instrumentality of their publishers, 
lest their anonymity should be compromised. 

At the opening of the exhibition the Society 
was privileged to have awhile on loan the 
original manuscripts of Jane Eyre and Villette — 


charlotte Bront'e : a Centenary Memorial 

out of the almost inexhaustible store of treasures 
belonging to the firm of Messrs. Smith, Elder & 
Co., the original publishers of the novels. But 
as a permanent possession, of course, such relics 
are beyond hope. The only one of the manu- 
scripts which did not pass into the possession of 
the firm — that of The Professor^ or, as it was 
originally called, The Master — is now in the col- 
lection of Mr. Pierpont Morgan in New York. 
But already the series of letters by Charlotte is 
rich in interest. A few have been bought, but 
for the most part the Society looks with gratitude 
to Mr T. J. Wise, the well-known collector, 
for the gift of documents of the tenderest interest. 
Among them, bound sumptuously, are those last 
faint lines in pencil, almost too sacred for full 
publication in print, which Charlotte wrote to 
her friend Ellen Nussey from " my weary bed " 
within a few hours of her death. These are 
where they should be — in the keeping of those 
who will reverence them. 

A few manuscripts of Mrs. Gaskell, of Mr. 
NichoUs, and of Mr. Bronte are included, among 
them being an elaborate list of French phrases 
compiled by Mr. Bronte for his own use during 
his expedition to Brussels in 1842 to deposit 
his daughters in the famous school in the Rue 
d'Isabelle. Space forbids that the review of the 
little collection of treasures should be carried 
farther. Suffice it to say that Bronte lovers 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

and even the casual public have found encourage- 
ment and reward for frequent visits to the 
Museum. During the twenty-one years it has 
been open there have paid for admission more 
than 54,000 persons. This takes no account of 
the members of the Society, who are admitted 
freely and whose visits and revisits are unrecorded. 
The first publication issued by the Society — 
in January 1895 — was an extensive "Biblio- 
graphy of the Works of the Bronte Family : 
including a list of books and magazine articles 
on the Brontes, together with a notice of works 
relating to Haworth." It was prepared by Mr. 
Butler Wood, who early in the Society's work 
|»ad been marked out by the Council to act as 
Bibliographical and Publication Secretary. This 
first effort was followed two and a half years 
later by a supplementary list. Some evidence 
of the interest which successive generations of 
readers and writers have taken in the Brontes 
and their books, is afforded by the fact that 
these two bibliographical lists enumerated nearly 
seven hundred items. And they are now 
twenty years or more old. Since the Society's 
work initiated a new era of widespread interest, 
a positive flood of literature discussing the 
Brontes has proceeded from the press, and it is 
quite probable that a second supplement to the 
Bibliography could be compiled as extensive as 
both the previous lists taken together. It is 


charlotte fronts : a Centenary Memorial 

a task for the future. Meanwhile one may 
note that the cosmopolitan character of the 
reputation of the novels is indicated by the fact 
that beside the numerous reprints which have 
appeared in England, Scotland, the United 
States of America, Canada, and Australia, trans- 
lations of one or more have been published in 
France, Russia, Germany, and Austria, and 
dramatized versions have been printed in the 
United States, France, Germany, Italy, and 
Denmark. Jane Eyre has most commended 
itself to the foreign taste. Mr. G. K. Chester- 
ton once shocked the Society by commending 
'Jane Eyre as the best " penny dreadful," the 
most thrilling detective-story ever written in 
English, and he lamented that it alone of the 
novels of Charlotte Bronte followed the true 
melodramatic sequence. Whatever may be 
thought of Mr. Chesterton's striking and un- 
expected way of putting things, the truth which 
he was emphasizing (or over-emphasizing) no 
doubt lies at the root of the popularity of Jane 
Eyre in a foreign dress. Shirley^ despite those 
qualities — or perhaps because of them — which 
make it most typical and photographically real 
of all Yorkshire novels ever written, has also 
found some acceptance in France and Germany. 
But, curiously, Villettey which many English 
readers would be disposed to regard as the 
most delightful, the most powerful of the series, 


The Bronte Society and its U'^ork 

has never found a French translator — and that 
notwithstanding its brilliantly drawn baclcground 
of the little city of Brussels. Perhaps the main 
reason is that the point of view is so singularly 
individual, so remote and perhaps so incompre- 
hensible to the Continental mind ; for the original 
reason which prevented its translation — the 
desire to spare the feelings of persons all too 
easily to be identified — can have little weight 
when after this lapse of years all who were con- 
cerned have passed away. 

It is a little curious, too, that on the Continent 
the name of " Bronte " is still almost unknown, 
and the works of the sisters still bear only their 
early pseudonyms, " Currer Bell," " Ellis Bell," 
and " Acton Bell." It is only within the last few 
years that, in the pages mainly of the Abbe 
Dimnet, there has reached Continental readers 
some echo of the pathetic story which surrounds 
the production of the novels and some fragrance 
of the peat-smoke of the old homesteads of 
the Haworth moors and hillsides. Even M. 
Maeterlinck's contribution to Bronte literature 
is rather a study of PVuthering Heights in vacuo. 
He divined something of the truth, but did not 
really comprehend its author — she 

whose soul 
Knew no fellow for might, 
Passion, vehemence, griet. 
Daring, since Byron died. 

charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

In the earlier days of the Society a good 
deal of labour was devoted to the task of 
searching out the originals of the places which 
Charlotte Bronte drew in her novels and of the 
characters with which she peopled those scenes. 
Charlotte Bronte's genius was curiously objective. 
Quite as much as any of the writers of her 
generation she was *' subjective " in her themes. 
Just as much as Wordsworth, though without 
a trace of his egotism, she was interested — and 
interested her readers — in the working of her 
own mind and of her own emotions. Except 
in that single and splendid instance when she 
allowed her fancy to conceive what might have 
been had Nature endowed the stalwart spirit 
of her sister Emily with a healthy body and 
the social opportunities of a lady of a manor, 
Charlotte herself was her own heroine, and her 
spiritual adventures were, with singularly little 
translation and imaginative extension, the pur- 
pose of her work. It is this realism which 
appeals to the soul of the reader ; but it is 
supported by an appeal to the mind through a 
precision of observation and meticulous delinea- 
tion of the objects and the people around her, 
such as one finds in equal degree in few other 
writers. If the Celt within her indulged in the 
building of castles of romance, the Yorkshire- 
woman saw to it that they were constructed of 
sound materials and firm based as solid earth 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

— the rough rock of mind and heart which 
she found in the men and women about her, 
the picturesque and enduring gritstone and oak 
of the Pennine homesteads, or maybe the brick 
and stucco of her Belgian schooldays. 

Thus Yorkshire folk recognized even in the 
backgrounds of the drama a phase of interest 
lost to the stranger — or only unconsciously 
enjoyed — that interest in familiar things pictured 
which is of universal appeal. The examination 
of origins did not, of course, imply blindness or 
numbness to the greater purpose — the psycho- 
logical drama, but was the development of a further 
charm for those who could share it. One need 
not stay here to defend this research, though 
it has been denied that the admirer of a work of 
art has any right to peep behind the veil which 
hides the artist in his studio, to ask any questions 
about his models, or to analyze his palette. 
That attitude was hardly possible even as a 
monastic ideal, and generations far removed 
from one another in other points of view have 
agreed in treasuring even indifferent pictures 
when they could recognize Dante, or Raphael, 
or the young Keats drawn to the life in figures 
in the background, and to accept even the 
faultless craftsmanship of a Millais as enhanced 
in interest by the knowledge that his picture was 
something more than a fancy out of Boccaccio 
or Chaucer, but gave us veritable likenesses of his 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

kindred spirits in the Pre-Raphaelite Brother- 

It is true this work of identifying originals 
in the novels of Charlotte Bronte was commenced 
a little too soon for the authoress's own peace of 
mind, and, as is the way of a gossip-loving world, 
it was mostly the least complimentary features 
which were recognized — Cromwell's wart rather 
than his massive brow and far-seeing eye — and 
was in consequence resented. But one could 
wish that it had entered into the heart of one of 
Charlotte's contemporaries to have annotated her 
novels, for much that bears the convincing 
similitude of realism in personality and cir- 
cumstance is not now to be connected with its 

The first volume of the Transactions of the 
Society contained valuable aids to the study of 
the topography of the novels. Dr. J. A. Erskine 
Stuart, who had been perhaps the first to give 
the subject earnest study, read to the Society in 
1894 a suggestive paper on the Bronte Nomen- 

The Rev. T. Keyworth and Mr. J. J. Stead 
in 1896 put before the Society clear evidence 
for the identification of the Morton of Jane Eyre 
with the little Derbyshire village of Hathersage, 
the home of the Rev. Henry Nussey, brother of 
Charlotte's friend, Ellen Nussey — a zealous young 
clergyman who was beyond question the model 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

for the strongly individual character of St. John 
Rivers in the novel. Mr. Stead also compiled in 
1896, for an excursion of the Society to the 
country about Birstall depicted in Shirley^ a precise 
little guide-book — if it may be so called — which 
has been very useful and was reprinted by the 
Society, with additions and excellent illustrations, 
ten years later. And the late Mr. P. F. Lee 
recounted some associations of Charlotte with 
Bridlington which threw a little light on some 
passages in the novels and much more upon a 
pleasant episode of Charlotte's life. In a series 
of parts of the Transactions of the Society — 
constituting the third volume — the writer of 
these lines was permitted to bring together a 
more exhaustive account, from published and 
unpublished sources, of The Persons and Places 
of the Bronte Novels. 

In the same spirit, though less directly associated 
with the Brontes and their writings, have been 
the studies of the local history of Haworth and 
of Thornton which the members have received 
through the instrumentality of the Society. The 
former was originally written by Mr. J. Frederick 
Greenwood, of Haworth, to be put into the 
hands of the members of the British Association 
for the Advancement of Science, on the occasion 
of the Bradford meeting in 1900, when an 
excursion to Haworth was included among the 
relaxations from the sterner labours of the lecture- 


Charlotte Brontt' : a Centenary Memorial 

rooms. Rightly judging the work to be of too 
much permanent interest to be lost sight of in 
the casual papers of that meeting, the Council of 
the Society secured permission to reprint it, and 
it now takes its place in the second volume of the 
'•trayisactions. The historical sketch of Thornton 
entitled Thornton and the Brontes was issued as 
a separate publication by Mr. William Scruton, 
the author of many historical studies of Bradford 
and its neighbourhood, and by the generosity of 
Sir William Priestley, M.P., a copy was presented 
to each member of the Society. The work is of 
special interest to Bronte students not only for 
its careful presentation of the remote little village 
in which the Brontes were born — an environment 
which affected the novels themselves in many 
ways — but also because there are embodied in 
it the impressions of several of those who had 
personal association with the Brontes in their 
own home. 

The Society has also manifested its interest in 
the topographical side of Bronte studies by 
organizing each summer an excursion to one 
place or another associated with the Brontes and 
their books. Haworth, of course, has claimed 
most attention, and assemblies there have been 
numerous — sometimes to visit the Museum, 
sometimes to enjoy the scent of the heather on the 
moors, sometimes to push farther afield to the 
old homesteads Ponden and Wycoller, which were 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

familiar scenes to the sisters and find some 
reflection in the scenery of the novels. Several 
visits have been made to Oakwell Hall — the 
principal scene of Shirley — and to other spots of 
interest in its vicinity — to the Kirkby Lonsdale 
district on the borders of Westmorland and the 
Derbyshire village of Hathersage painted in Jane 
Eyre^ and on one occasion it was proposed to 
undertake a visit to Brussels. Unluckily the 
enterprise was postponed, and before another 
opportunity arose the Rue d'lsabelle and the old 
school buildings themselves had been wholly 
swept away in the grandiose preparations for the 
erection of a Central railway station. 

The reading of papers, a form of activity which 
has been disparaged as the ploughing of sands, 
was, as will have been noticed, not the prime and 
supreme object of the Bronte Society as it was 
with the Wordsworth, Browning, and similar 
societies. But the members have very gladly 
listened to all who had a " message." It may be 
confessed that it was with the hope of securing 
for the Brontes a place in that noble series of 
addresses on literary subjects, for which Lord 
Rosebery secured the gratitude of book-lovers, 
that the members at the outset of the Society 
elected his lordship as their president. Lord 
Rosebery was at the moment engrossed with 
the labours of the Foreign Office, and very soon 
afterwards was to become Premier. Apparently 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

he hesitated ; he sent the Society an encouraging 
assurance of his interest in their work, but 
ultimately declined the office. Lord Houghton, 
afterwards the Marquis of Crewe, himself a poet 
and the son of a Yorkshire poet, accepted the 
position of president, but though he held it for 
twelve years he was unhappily prevented from 
taking any part in the work of the Society. He 
was succeeded in 1906 by Sir John Brigg, M.P., 
who remained president till his death in 191 1, 
when Mrs. Humphry Ward acceded to the 
request of the Society to undertake the duties. 
Of Sir John Brigg's part in the affairs of the 
Society something has already been said, and 
Mrs. Ward has on one or two occasions found 
it possible to encourage the Society by her 
presence and speech. 

Other distinguished students of literature have 
from time to time addressed the Society. Sir 
T. Wemyss Reid, who was, after Mrs. Gaskeil, 
the first to raise the veil for worshippers at the 
Bronte shrine, was only prevented by illness 
from formally opening the Museum in 1895, 
and a paper which he prepared for that occa- 
sion, and an address he delivered to the Society 
in 1898, are printed among the Society's Trans- 
actions. Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Augustine 
Birrell could never be persuaded to add any- 
thing by way of personal encouragement to the 
Society beyond the stimulus afforded by their 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

admirable contributions to Bronte literature. 
But Mr. Shorter, the editor of the letters — to 
whom all Bronte students are supremely grate- 
ful — and Sir W. Robertson NicoJl were early 
in their assistance and counsel. The literary 
problems of the Brontes, their genius, their place 
in the history of the English novel, have been 
very suggestively discussed by Dr. R. Garnett, long 
of the British Museum, Mr. G. K. Chesterton 
and Mr. A. C, Benson — who devoted themselves 
particularly to the work of Charlotte Bronte ; by 
Lord Haldane and Mr. J. Fotheringham — who 
dealt specifically with Emily Bronte ; and aspects 
of the subject have been treated more generally 
by Professor G. Saintsbury, Mr. Edmund Gosse, 
Mr. Ernest de Selincourt, Professor C. E. 
Vaughan, and Mr. Thomas Seccombe. Mr. 
Halliwell Sutcliffe, who has enriched the Haworth 
district and the wild country beyond by an 
assiduous collection and a skilled literary treat- 
ment of a mass of tradition untouched by the 
Brontes, dealt almost lyrically of " The Spirit 
of the Moors "in one address to the Society ; and 
Mr. Keighley Snowden, another novelist native 
to the soil who has found yet other sources of 
local inspiration, has been among those who 
have paid tribute to the genius of the Bronte 
family. The contributions of Sir Sidney Lee, 
of the Right Rev. J, E. C. Welldon (Dean of 
Manchester), and of Mrs. Ellis H. Chadwick 

145 K 

Charlotte Bronte : a Cente7iary Memorial 

have been of a biographical character. Sir 
Sidney Lee related many interesting reminiscences 
still current in the family of the late Sir George 
Smith, concerning Charlotte Bronte's relations 
with the firm of Smith, Elder & Co., and of 
her visits to London. Bishop Welldon dealt 
with certain Manchester literary associations, for 
it will be remembered that it was whilst at 
Manchester that Charlotte Bronte commenced 
to write Jane Eyre. These and other addresses 
have much enriched the Society's Transactions. 
Pioneer work in the study of material untouched 
hitherto — the Juvenilia — has been carried out by 
Dr. George Edwin MacLean, the former head 
of the University of Iowa, in the United States, 
and he has shown that there exists here a profit- 
able field which it may be hoped will continue 
to be cultivated. One must not forget in this 
brief review of the Society's publications that 
through the generosity of Mr. John Waugh — 
an enthusiastic Bronte collector — the Society was 
enabled to reprint for the members' use the 
admirable article which Miss Nussey wrote in 
Scribner s Magazine as long ago as 187 1, pre- 
serving most valuable reminiscences of her life- 
long friend. Miss Nussey had attained a very 
advanced age before the Society came into 
existence, and she could never be persuaded to 
leave the seclusion with which she ever sur- 
rounded herself to take a part in the Society's 


The Bronte Society and its Work 

affairs, but she manifested the keenest interest 
in its work, and many of the relics which she 
had preserved find a place in the Museum. 

From the beginning the Society has been 
fortunate in its officers. The duties of Secretary 
were at the outset carried out by Mr. J. Hors- 
fall Turner. On his retirement Mr. Butler 
Wood was elected as Bibliographical Secretary 
and Mr. William T. Field as Corresponding 
Secretary, and it is fair to say that the Society 
owes much of its success to their enthusiastic 
energy and caution. The Treasurers of the 
Society have been the late F. G. Galloway, of 
Bradford (1894 to his death in 1896) ; the late 
Alfred Newboult, of Bradford (1896 to his death 
in 1897); Mr. J. J. Stead, of Heckmondwike 
(1898-1906); Mr. Frederick A. T. Mossman, 
of Bradford ( 1906-19 15) ; and Mr. W. Robert- 
shaw (since 19 15). Though the membership of 
the Society has been drawn from practically all 
parts of the English-speaking world, it has been a 
matter of convenience that the members of the 
Council of the Society have principally been 
residents within easy reach of Haworth and 
Bradford, and it is satisfactory that there has 
never been a moment when interest in the 
Society's affairs has flagged. The following 
have acted as chairmen of the Council : — Sir 
John Brigg, M.P. (1894-1896) ; Mr. J. J. 
Brigg, of Keighley (1897); Mr. J. F. Green- 


Charlotte Bront? : a Centenary Memorial 

wood, of Haworth (1898-1900) ; Mr. W, W. 
Yates, of Dewsbury (1901) ; Mr. S. P. Unwin, 
of Shipley (i 902-1 905) ; Mr. Butler Wood, of 
Bradford (1906-1908) ; Mr. J, J. Stead, of Heck- 
mondwike (1909-19 10) ; Miss Cockshott, of Oak- 
worth (191 1) ; Mr. W. de Witt Blackstock, of 
Chapel-en-le-Frith (19 12) ; Mr. John Watkin- 
son, of Huddersfield (1913) ; Mr. George Day, 
of Dewsbury (1914) ; and Mr. Frederick A. T. 
Mossman, of Bradford (191 5-1 9 16). 






An Address delivered to the Bronte Society at Keighlby, 
ON January 23, 1904 



The invitation to address, on the subject of 
Charlotte Bronte, an audience of Charlotte 
Bronte's country people, who, if her life could 
have been prolonged to the present day, would 
have been her friends and neighbours, and 
failing that are her sincere venerators and ad- 
mirers, may well be regarded as both an honour 
and a pleasure by any to whose lot it may fall. 
In my case it is attended with peculiar gratifica- 
tion, inasmuch as, though not a native or an 
inhabitant of the Bronte country, I may claim 
some affinity with it. My ancestors, when I 
first encounter them, are found dwelling in 
the little moorland hamlet of Eldwick, in the 
neighbourhood of Bingley, and I was myself 
baptized in Bingley Parish Church. The possi- 
bility of walking from Bingley to Haworth and 
back in a long summer morning was, when I 
was younger and more active than I am now, 
victoriously demonstrated by myself. I feel, 
therefore, that I am not altogether among 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

strangers, and that I may claim some little parti- 
cipation in the honour which the birth of 
Charlotte Bronte at Haworth reflects upon the 
district. Happy the district which does possess 
a minor tutelary divinity, or at least a local 
hero or heroine ! Daniel Webster, addressing 
the citizens of Rochester in the State of New 
York, a place celebrated for its lofty waterfall, 
informed them that no people had ever lost 
their liberties who had a waterfall forty feet 
high. A tall statement ; taller, some think, 
than the waterfall. But it is perfectly true that 
a community with a great memory of person 
or event to which it can and does look up is 
more certain than a community less fortunate 
in this particular of retaining its self-respect. 

The very fact, however, that I share in the 
patriotic feeling which has founded and which 
maintains the Bronte Society, admonishes me to 
be cautious in my treatment of Charlotte Bronte. 
Among the reports of the proceedings of previous 
meetings which have been kindly sent me for 
perusal I observe an excellent remark, not 
emanating from a distinguished visitor but from 
one of yourselves, that there is a danger attend- 
ing all societies formed for the study and 
celebration of particular authors, the danger, 
namely, that the author in question may come 
to be regarded as the centre, so to speak, of a 
solar system, around whom all other authors 


Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

revolve like minor luminaries. This would be 
a wrong position even for a Shakespeare or a 
Dante, or a Goethe, not to say a Spenser or a 
Chaucer. There is no centre for the universe 
of Literature but the ideal of Literature her- 
self, the light that never was on sea or land. 
Especially is this danger aggravated when, as in 
our case, patriotic fervour blends with aesthetic 
admiration. Within due limits this fervour is 
a most excellent thing. It supplies warmth and 
colour ; to vary slightly a saying of Emerson's, 
it sets criticism aflame with emotion : nay, it 
aids to the shortcoming of the critical faculty. 
As so finely said by Shelley, " Love where 
Wisdom fails makes Cythna wise." But, carried 
to excess, it aflixes a note of provincialism upon 
the admirers, and, which is much worse, upon 
the object of their admiration also. This im- 
putation of provincialism may be extremely 
unjust, but so long as it adheres it is fatal, and 
rightly so, for provincialism in the sense in which 
I am employing the term denotes a stratum of 
mind below the region of the highest excellence, 
permanently and irremediably at a lower level. 
It is not like a stain upon a fine stuff, it is a 
stuff of inferior texture throughout : and in 
worse plight than material stuff inasmuch as it 
cannot be converted into a finer material by 
mechanical process, as Sir John Cutler's worsted 
stockings became silk stockings by assiduous 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

darning. I will not say that it cannot be dyed 
to look for awhile like the better quality, but 
such dyes are deficient in permanence, and you 
cannot dye a second-rate author once a fortnight, 
like a Persian's beard. We could not do Charlotte 
Bronte a greater disservice than to fix the note 
of Provincialism upon her. Instead, therefore, 
of devoting my paper to an encomium upon 
her, which might be perilous, I shall compare 
her with those great, and, as I frankly admit, 
in many respects greater, authors of her time 
with whom she admits of comparison, and 
endeavour to show that she has a sphere of her 
own independent of any of theirs, which she 
occupies with as much mastery as any of them 
occupy their own, and which but for her would 
have remained unoccupied by any first-class 
writer. The sphere I mean is a sphere of sub- 
jective feeling in the narrowest sense of the 
term. I am not comparing Charlotte Bronte 
with writers like George Eliot, who delineate 
subjective emotion from the outside as creators 
or observers, and paint states of feeling most 
alien to their own, inspired by passions of which 
they themselves have had no experience. Such 
a method is a blending of the objective and 
subjective ; it is subjective in so far as it deline- 
ates mental states, and only uses incident as a 
means of producing those states ; but it is 
objective in so far as it describes conditions 

Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

external to the author, and unshared by him. 
The subjectivity of Charlotte Bronte is that more 
intense subjectivity of which, when fictitious 
narrative is its medium, Byron is perhaps the 
most conspicuous example in our literature, 
where fictitious narrative is merely the means 
of expressing the writer's own personality, and, 
substantially, story and character and reflection 
are but the external projection of his own being. 
In making the round of Charlotte Bronte and 
those of her contemporaries who have pretensions 
to stand in the first rank, I think we shall find 
that she is the only one who absolutely conforms 
to this model : and if so, she has a sphere of her 
own ; and if this is the case, and if she fills this 
sphere with no less power and mastery than her 
most eminent contemporaries fill theirs, she is 
no less entitled to the first-class rank than they 
are, even though her sphere may be considerably 
more restricted. Of course she was very far 
from having the field of subjective fiction of the 
intenser type entirely to herself. The number 
of novels of this type published in the Early 
and Middle Victorian periods was very great, 
and many of them were very excellent fictions, 
but I do not think that there are any besides hers 
for which any one at the present day would be 
disposed to claim the attribute of genius. One 
result of this method of treatment must be that 
we shall have less to say of Charlotte Bronte 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

herself and more of her contemporaries than 
might be expected in a discourse of which she 
is the professed subject. But it is well in her 
own interest to turn aside for awhile from the 
direct contemplation of her as an isolated literary 
phenomenon, and note how she stands with refer- 
ence to those kindred geniuses who share with 
her the admiration of posterity. If she appeared 
as the satellite of any of these she would have to 
be content with a secondary position. But I 
think it will appear that she occupies quite a 
distinct position of her own, and fills a place to 
which they do not pretend. I do not, of course, 
intend by this a merely local position as the 
laureate of the moorlands, or even as the literary 
representative of the great West Riding of York- 
shire. It is here that the caution which I have 
ventured to give against provincialism is applic- 
able. The West Riding may and should glory 
in her ; but if she is to rank among great writers, 
it must be shown that her West Riding tales are 
as fit for universal humanity as George Sand's 
idylls of Berrichon country life, no less steeped 
in local colouring than Charlotte Bronte's novels, 
but readable from China to Peru. 

The great novelists of the early and middle 
divisions of the Victorian era, who constitute the 
constellation of which we maintain Charlotte 
Bronte to have been a bright particular star, are 
Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Kingsley, 

charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Gaskell, Bulwer, Borrow, 
and Disraeli. The list is rigidly framed, exclud- 
ing writers so excellent in their respective styles 
as Mrs. Oliphant, Miss Yonge, and Wilkie 
Collins. I think it will be allowed that the 
quality of genius may be predicated of them all. 
Some doubts might possibly arise respecting the 
claims of Bulwer and Trollope to this divine 
attribute : but, even if the men were not in the 
strictest sense geniuses, their talent appears all 
the more prodigious, and their productiveness 
renders them more conspicuous in our literature 
than writers of finer endowments whose spheres 
were more limited and partial. 

Dickens and Thackeray, though each had too 
much good taste to depreciate the other openly, 
neither admired nor sympathized with each other 
as they might have done. Nevertheless, their 
names are as intimately coupled in our literature 
as are in German literature the names of the two 
poets whose union in mind and heart was most 
perfect, Goethe and Schiller, and for the same 
reason, not merely because they were illustrious 
contemporaries, but because they are both the 
contrasts to and the complements of each other, 
Dickens is the prose poet, Thackeray the con- 
summate master of prose. Dickens is the great 
painter of the teeming life of the humbler orders 
of society : Thackeray of the higher and of the 
upper middle classes and those parasitic growths 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of humbler origin — the valet, the bill discounter, 
the toady, and the like — which insinuate them- 
selves into their sphere. Dickens is the unsur- 
passed master of broad humour whether jovial 
or grotesque ; Thackeray of humour in its more 
refined manifestations. Thackeray is a most 
admirable writer both of humorous and pathetic 
verse, but you can scarcely call him a poet : 
Dickens is rarely other than a poet, though much 
beside, but his metrical performances are insig- 
nificant. Neither touch Charlotte Bronte any- 
where, they leave the field entirely open for her 
peculiar gift : and, notwithstanding her enthusi- 
astic admiration for Thackeray, she would have 
written as she has written if he had not existed. 
It is scarcely needful to discuss the relation of 
Anthony Trollope and George Eliot to Charlotte 
Bronte, as they both came after her, and had 
there been any question of borrowing or of 
influence, they would evidently have been the 
indebted parties. In fact no such question arises : 
but it is impossible, in however brief a survey 
of Charlotte Bronte's position in the literature of 
her time, to pass over the strong affinity between 
her work and a portion of George Eliot's. At 
first sight this is not so apparent, owing to the 
great dissimilarity of atmosphere and environ- 
ment. George Eliot never came into Yorkshire, 
or resided at Brussels, or was brought up at a 
semi-charity school, or shared the hard lot of 
• 158 

Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Piction 

private-school teachers or governesses, Charlotte 
Bronte knew little about the Midland counties, 
or Florence, or political agitations, or foreign 
gaming tables. Nevertheless there is one fibre 
almost identical, or if distinction there be it is 
that in Charlotte Bronte's case the fibre is the 
whole woman, while in George Eliot's it is but 
one string of a most ample harp. I mean the 
fibre of passion. Passion is the dominant note 
of Charlotte Bronte's, nay it is more, it is the 
music. Take away this ardent, impetuous, some- 
times tempestuous feeling, and little remains. 
But it exists equally in the rich nature of George 
Eliot, only in company with so many other 
emotions as to be much less conspicuous. Take, 
however, the character of Maggie Tulliver, and 
you will see passion fully as intense and fully as 
genuine as any that Charlotte Bronte ever de- 
picted : only surrounded with such a crowd of 
circumstances into which passion does not enter, 
but which are represented with equal mastery, 
that it does not produce the same overwhelming 
effect. You cannot well think of Maggie Tul- 
liver without the three aunts coming to mind 
also. The point for us, however, is that there 
is no trace of any direct influence of Charlotte 
Bronte upon George Eliot. Both drew from the 
book of Nature, both obeyed the precept : Look 
into thy heart and write. There can be no doubt 
that Maggie is a closer portrait of George Eliot 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

than any of her other personages, but she is only 
one aspect of a various and opulent nature, while 
Jane Eyre and Caroline Helston and Lucy 
Snowe are substantially Charlotte Bronte herself. 
Hence their surpassing force ; they gain in in- 
tensity what they lose in breadth. In truth to 
nature and in the interest of person and situation, 
there is nothing to choose between Charlotte and 
her successor. It is worthy of remark that Char- 
lotte Bronte owes much of her energy of repre- 
sentation to her custom of writing in the first 
person. Two of her three novels are so com- 
posed, and hence emotion comes straight from 
author to reader without the interposition of any 
medium. This method has its disadvantages, 
but is excellent for the subjective writer whose 
forte is passion. The Sorrows of Werther could 
not otherwise have been made impressive, but 
when Goethe came to give a picture of general 
society he dropped it : nor is it a usual method 
with the novelists who have given us entire 
worlds of personages, Scott and Dickens, and 
George Eliot. I might almost add Anthony 
Trollope, though perhaps the bulk of the latter's 
work might be more correctly described as con- 
stituting not a world but a panorama. A mar- 
vellous panorama it is of " all sorts and conditions 
of men," and if wanting the creative breath 
which pervades Dickens it may at least be said 
that TroUope's observation sometimes aids him 


Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

where Dickens's deserts him. Dickens is a poet, 
and a poet cannot work unless he be in some 
degree in sympathy with his subject. Dickens's 
sympathy apparently abandoned him when he 
came to deal with the higher classes, and his 
portraits of these are little better than caricatures. 
He is the painter, whose ability to render faith- 
fully what he sees distinctly may be impaired by 
the state of his nerves, or any one of a thousand 
accidents. But TroUope is like a camera ; fit the 
instrument up properly, bring the object to it or 
it to the object, and you may be sure of a faith- 
ful rendering, though it may depend much upon 
the state of the atmosphere whether bright or 
prosaic. It is evident therefore that he can have 
little in common with Charlotte Bronte, and that 
each is far from encroaching on the other's sphere. 
In truth, three out of the four novelists who 
have been mentioned are parted from Charlotte 
Bronte by a wide and deep gulf. They are 
objective — that is, they describe scenes and create 
characters external to themselves : while she is 
subjective — that is, almost everything she writes 
is related not merely artistically but vitally to 
herself, and has in some sense been lived over 
by her. George Eliot is to a certain extent in 
the same category as Charlotte Bronte, but so 
wide is her range that the portion of the work 
of which this can be affirmed appears but small 
in comparison with that which lies outside of 

i6j L 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Charlotte's sphere : she cannot, therefore, be 
regarded as the especial representative of sub- 
jective passion. There is also strong evidence 
of a desire to make her fictions operate upon the 
world, and contribute to its amelioration, a feeling 
entirely absent from Charlotte Bronte, as it must 
be from every purely subjective writer. I do 
not think that George Eliot has carried it to any 
inartistic length : but this is more than can be 
said of the next distinguished novelist upon our 
list, Charles Kingsley. Kingsley's earliest novels 
are written to recommend the ideas of Christian 
socialism : his Hypatia and Two Years Ago are 
manifestos of Broad Church theology ; Westward 
Ho ! endeavours the revival of the age of 
Elizabeth. All approach perilously near the 
region of the tract : but all are saved by the 
writer's energy and marvellous gift of picturesque 
description, as well as the fine moral tone and the 
translation of the ideas of Carlyle into ordinary 
speech. They have this much in common with 
Charlotte Bronte's novels that they are works of 
intense passion, but hers is the passion of an 
individual and his the enthusiasm of humanity. 
A novelist of equal genius, but who appears at 
first sight at the opposite pole from Kingsley — 
Disraeli — resembles him in the extent to which 
he writes with a direct purpose. Long before 
Charlotte Bronte's time Vivian Grey had been 
written to satirize the politics of the day, and 


Charlotte Bronte in 'Nineteenth Century Fiction 

point out the possibility of the formation of a 
new party : and Contarini Fleming to idealize 
Disraeli himself in the character of poet, to which 
he then sincerely thought he had a claim. During 
the period of Charlotte's literary activity Disraeli 
produced three novels with the most unmistakable 
political purpose, and therefore not touching 
at all upon her peculiar domain. Contarini 
Fleming in some measure does so, and the 
contrast of method is instructive. We see 
Charlotte representing the heroines who imper- 
sonate her conception of herself in the simplest 
manner, with the least possible diversity of 
circumstances from her own ; in a word, painting 
herself as she really was. Disraeli, on the 
contrary, envelops his childhood with picturesque- 
ness and magnificence, places himself in ideal 
surroundings and in an ideal atmosphere, and, 
while not unfaithful to his own conception of 
his own character, makes his environment not 
what it was, but what he would have wished 
it to have been. This fundamental difference 
of method places even his subjective work in 
quite a different category from Charlotte Bronte's. 
Borrow presents a curious combination of 
objective and subjective tendencies. No writer 
can possibly be more vivid in description, or more 
interested in things external to himself: on the 
other hand his works are pervaded by his own 
personality, and, while most graphic in depicting 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

salient traits of character, he gives us no whole 
man except himself. In both these character- 
istics he differs from Charlotte Bronte, upon 
whom he can have exerted no influence. There 
remain two authors of singular versatility, Bulwer 
and Mrs. Gaskell. Bulwer's passion was literary 
fame ; in pursuit of this he accommodates 
himself with unrivalled dexterity to the taste of 
the day, but you never can be sure of having his 
real mind, unless perhaps when his novels turn 
upon occult studies. He cannot, therefore, be 
compared with Charlotte Bronte. The last great 
novelist on our list, Mrs. Gaskell, not the least of 
whose titles to fame is her admirable and classical 
biography of her heroine Charlotte, was, like 
Bulwer, though from different motives, so versatile, 
that it is hard to say where the real manifestation 
of her individuality is to be found. All her books 
are masterly, but no two are alike. It is difficult, 
therefore, to parallel her with an authoress so 
thoroughly self-consistent as Charlotte Bronte. 

This hasty and imperfect review of the 
characteristics of the chief writers of Charlotte 
Bronte's period who have any claim to be 
accounted her rivals should at all events suffice 
to establish that she occupies a niche of her own, 
and cannot be classified with any of them. This 
is enough to rescue her from the charge of 
provincialism. She is not merely the repre- 
sentative of a particular district, but occupies a 


Charlotte Bront'e in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

place in the great Pantheon of English literature 
which but for her would have remained unfilled. 
If I were now writing a history of English 
literature it would be needful to define this place, 
and vindicate by examples her right to hold it. 
This is unnecessary on the present occasion, 
when I am addressing an audience well read in 
her writings and patriotically interested in them, 
and which has, moreover, frequently had the 
advantage of hearing them discussed by critics 
of eminence. We may assume as generally 
admitted that the predominant characteristic of 
Charlotte Bronte's writings is Passion — whether 
the passion of love or the passion of hate, or local 
or patriotic enthusiasm, or any other by which 
her intense and indomitable nature might at the 
time be actuated. None of her contemporaries 
are open to the impressions of powerful feeling 
in an equal degree, and none are so exclusively 
possessed bv them. Her sphere, therefore, while 
it has many points of contact with theirs, 
especially with George Eliot's, is nevertheless 
dissimilar. This is to say that she is original, 
and indeed I can hardly think of any writer of 
her day, except Borrow and Browning, of whom 
absolute originality can be so unequivocally pre- 
dicated. A considerable affinity to Byron may 
be traced. Like him she possessed 

a fount of fiery life 
Which served for a Titanic strife. 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

But while Byron marred splendid work by 
frequent affectation and insincerity, nothing is 
more characteristic of Charlotte Bronte than her 
absolute truthfulness. Some of her pictures, 
especially of the schools where she was pupil and 
teacher, have been taxed with inaccuracy. This 
may be the fact, but none can doubt that she 
described them as they appeared to herself. She 
would not for the world have debased her art to 
a manufacture, or put pen to paper in the absence 
of a definite call. Once, indeed, she was prevailed 
upon to lengthen by an episode a novel which 
had fallen short of the regular three-volume 
quantum, but the episode is one of the best things 
in the book. As this austere conscientiousness 
is one of her glories, so it is correlated with her 
principal shortcoming, not a shortcoming which 
in any way detracts from the merits of the novels 
which she has given us, but one which prevented 
her from giving us many more. She is deficient 
in invention and creative imagination : she can 
only speak of what she has realized by her 
personal experience. Hence all three novels are 
mainly autobiographical. She is indeed fully 
capable of drawing portraits of persons external 
and even distasteful to herself with startling effect, 
witness the wonderful picture of Madame Beck 
in Villette^ but they must be people she has 
known, and who have come within her own 
sphere. She cannot create a character by sheer 


charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

force of imagination, nor can she devise a set of 
circumstances out of which to construct a story. 
The consequence was a great limitation in her 
powers of production. She had by no means 
worn her mind out, but she had exhausted her 
material ; and as she would not condescend with 
many another novelist to use the old material 
over again, it is probable that even if her life 
had been prolonged she would have written little 
more. If, like George Sand, while retaining 
unimpaired the passion which first set her pen 
in motion, she had been able to devise an endless 
series of novel scenes and incidents, she might, 
with life and health, have filled a prodigious place 
in our literature. As it is, her praise must be the 
reverse to have produced a greater effect than 
almost any other novelist whose production is 
limited to three books. 

It is not easy to speak of Currer Bell without 
naming Ellis and Acton. Anne Bronte lives 
by her sisters ; a single lyric reveals the poetess. 
Some distinguished critics have preferred Emily 
to Charlotte. I should deprecate the com- 
parison : their genius and their spheres are 
dissimilar. Charlotte is not a poet, and Emily 
is not an artist. The apology for the savage 
repulsiveness, tempered by the deepest tender- 
ness, of her Wuthering Heights is that save in 
form it is a lyric, a work of poetical inspiration. 
It came to her, she did not plan or scheme it. 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

The same is true of her better poems, especially 
of her masterpiece, the lines beginning, " No 
coward soul is mine," one of the very few 
examples of the sublime in English poetry of 
the Victorian era, and in intensity of feeling and 
magnificence of expression surpassing every other 
lyric of an English poetess. Had she lived and 
had this inspiration continued to be vouchsafed 
to her, whether in prose or verse, her place must 
have been high indeed. But it was fitful and 
capricious, independent of her own will, and 
might never have revisited her. In any case, 
neither with it nor without it, would she have 
emulated the more disciplined genius of her 
sister, any more than the latter would have 
rivalled her as a poetess. 

I am about to conclude my discourse by 
reading an anecdote of Charlotte Bronte from 
a book which, being privately printed, is probably 
unknown to you, supplemented by some reflec- 
tions and reminiscences by the writer, a man 
of the most delightful nature and the highest 
culture. He is the late William Johnson Cory, 
dear to some few as a poet, appreciated by still 
fewer as an historian, though without a rival 
in pregnancy and conciseness ; the most eflicient 
Eton master of his day and the best modern 
writer of Latin verse ; the reformer of King's 
College, Cambridge, in conjunction with Henry 
Bradshaw ; and who nevertheless, with all 



Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

these titles to distinction, has remained almost 
unknown. I will endeavour to make him 
known here as an admirer of Charlotte Bronte. 
He says in the privately printed book to 
which I have alluded, the Extracts from his 
Letters and Journals^ printed after his death, 
describing a visit paid to Haworth in 1867 : — 

Went to Haworth with the three Butlers. Glad to 
find Arthur Butler thinking as I do about Shirley, the best 
of books. They told me what Richmond told them about 
Charlotte Bronte's portrait. She was very shy, and for two 
sittings he was out of hope ; but the third time she met the 
Duke of Wellington's servant leaving the house, which made 
Richmond say, " If you had been here a quarter of an hour 
sooner you would have seen the Duke of Wellington." 
Whereupon she broke out into eager asking^about the Duke ; 
and so the painter caught the eager expression given in his 
portrait, of which I bought a photograph in Keighley. 
When Richmond was getting on well with the portrait she 
stood behind him looking at it : he heard a sob — she said, 
" Excuse me — it is so like my sister Emily." 

Mr. Cory visited the parsonage, which he 
describes as a miserable homestead, and he 
adds : — 

Out of that prison the little Charlotte put forth a hand 
to feel for the world of human emotion, I wish she would 
come back to us, and count up the myriads to whom she 
has given new souls. 

Now I remember reading Jane Eyre straight through at 
a sitting in ray home drawing-room, and again on the black, 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

gnarled wreathed rocks of Bude (1850) where there was a 
lowering stormcloud and a sunset on a distant sail, and a 
hollow roar in the reefs, and the reading broken off by 
a queer rattle of shingle which turned out to be a sheep 
fallen from the clifF: the last summer holidays spent with 
my mother. 

There is a peculiar propriety in Mr. Cory's 
record of his having read Jane Eyre upon the 
cliffs at Bude, for you will remember that Charlotte 
Bronte's mother was a Cornish woman. I do 
not think, however, that her Cornish ancestors 
were, like her father's family, Celtic. Much of 
her genius may be traced with probability to 
the happy mixture of blood, connected with 
the environment of her youth, peculiar, inde- 
pendent, original, but much less rough than Mrs. 
Gaskell made it out to be. I will not suppress 
Mr. Cory's pretty compliment to the fair sex of 
these parts. *' The women," he says, " talk 
most musically." When he speaks of having 
read Jane Eyre straight through at a sitting, we 
must conclude that he had the day before him 
when he began. This is not quite my experience. 
When I first read Jane Eyre my days were given 
to official work, and I could read only in the 
evening. I remember how the book kept me 
up to two o'clock in the morning, and how I 
closed it at the end of that thrilling passage 
where Jane proves to Mr. Rochester that an evil 
thing has really been near her by showing him 


Charlotte Bronte in Nineteenth Century Fiction 

that her veil has been torn from the top to the 
bottom. Fame might be founded on this incident 
alone : but it is a stronger proof of Charlotte's 
genius that her work and life as a whole should 
be able to awaken intense interest in readers so 
cultured and refined, so tender and manly and 
sweet-natured as Mr. Cory's letters and journals 
show him to have been. 

Will she retain this power ? I think so. It 
is a remark of Aubrey, writing three quarters 
of a century after Shakespeare, that Shakespeare's 
dramatic contemporaries, frequently preferred to 
him in his own age, are already out of date 
because they merely depict contemporary manners, 
while Shakespeare depicts universal manners. 
This is just what Charlotte Bronte does in her 
far more limited sphere ; she gives us the 
emotions which will be always true, always living, 
and her work owes little or nothing to the merely 
accidental and temporary. Works which repro- 
duce " the very form and pressure of the time," 
and deal with the questions, momentous as these 
may be, which principally interest the time, are 
inevitably doomed to dwindle in attractiveness — 
although, if true works of genius, they cannot 
die — until their abiding worth comes to be mainly 
historical. They may in this stage be compared 
to fossils, the imposing skeletons of grand and 
gigantic creatures whose softer parts have under- 
gone decomposition : while the simply subjective 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

romance, derived from a source of perennial 
feeling, reaches posterity like the pebble, which 
the everlasting roll of Time's ocean has only 
served to polish. 




By Prof. C. E. VAUGHAN, M.A. 

An Address delivered to the Bronte Society atKeighley, 
ON January 20, 1912. 



I HAVE called my lecture this evening " Char- 
lotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison and a 
Contrast." I shall make no attempt to keep 
the bounds between the comparison and the 
contrast scrupulously exact. In the main, how- 
ever, I shall begin by indicating what I con- 
ceive to be the points of resemblance between 
the sisters ; and in the main, I shall devote the 
latter part of the lecture to those points of 
contrast between them which can hardly fail 
to strike us. With this saving condition, let 
us pass at once to some points of resemblance 
which suggest themselves at the first glance. 

Both sisters — we shall feel this the moment we 
enter on a serious study of their writings — both 
sisters strike the note of passion. And I think 
we shall never do complete justice to their 
genius unless we bear in mind that they were 
among the first English novelists to do so. 
Think of the great names among the novelists 
who had gone before. Think of Fielding and 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of Sterne. Think of Miss Burney and Miss 
Austen. Think of the utter lack of passion in 
the whole generation of Early Victorian novelists, 
until Charlotte and Emily Bronte appeared. 
Think, above all, of the two novelists who 
were at the height of their fame when the 
sisters published their first works, Thackeray 
and Dickens. Then, and then only, you will 
see what an enormous service they rendered to 
the novel in this country by striking this note 
of passion ; and striking it with a depth and 
clearness that has seldom been equalled, and 
still more seldom, if ever, surpassed. 

In order to do justice to their precursors, one 
has indeed to remember that among them were 
two men who came near to forestalling the 
Brontes in this matter ; and that these two 
men arc among the greatest. They are Richard- 
son and Scott, In Clarissa you will hear some- 
thing not far removed from the note of passioti. 
It would be a gross injustice to deny it. Yet, 
after all, the fate of Clarissa, great as is the 
power with which it is brought before us, is 
rather the fate of passive suffering than the 
fate of a woman under the spell and doom of 
passion. She is the victim of wrongs done by 
others. She has not the will and the sweep of 
energy that we associate with passion. In the 
Bride of Lammermoor^ again you have some- 
thing that yet more nearly approaches what I 


Thornl'ield Hall of Jane Eyre. 

Fiddhead of Shirley. 

charlotte and Kmily Bronte : a Comparison 

should call the unmistakable note of passion. 
But, even there, you will find a difference which 
it is not well to overlook. Scott, as you 
might have expected from his nature and genius, 
confines himself entirely to action. In him 
there is nothing of that subtle analysis, that 
power of tracing the inmost workings of the 
soul, which is conspicuous in the Brontes, par- 
ticularly in Charlotte. There we see, we follow 
step by step, the growth and swell of passion, 
its conflict with the abiding instincts of the 
soul. We watch the storm sweep over the very 
being of the hero or heroine and rush them to 
suffering and despair. In Scott all, or some, 
of this may perhaps be implied. It may, if the 
imagination of the reader be keen and observ- 
ant, without much difficulty be possibly inferred. 
But it is certainly not in the picture which he 
actually paints. It is not in the story as he 
tells it. With the Brontes, on the other hand, 
at any rate with Charlotte, it forms the theme 
of the whole work. And what writer, I would 
like to know — what writer, at any rate in our 
own country — can be compared with them for 
supreme mastery of this inner note of passion ? 
Then again, there is in both sisters what I 
think we should all agree to call the lyric cry. 
But it takes a different form in each. In Emily 
Bronte it is diffused through the whole story. 
In Charlotte, it gathers itself together in one 

177 M 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

or two magnificent scenes. Emily, no doubt, 
sometimes allows it to flash upon us in a single 
phrase, a single image, or chain of images, as 
in those where the heroine of fVuthering Heights 
paints her identity of soul with HeathcliflF. The 
passage will be in the memory of many of us, 
but there can be no harm in repeating it : "I 
love him . . . because he's more myself than I 
am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and 
mine are the same : and Linton's is as different 
as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire. 
My love for Linton is like the foliage in 
the woods : time will change it, I'm well aware, 
as winter changes the trees. My love for 
HeathclifF resembles the eternal rocks beneath : 
a source of little visible delight, but necessary. 
I am HeathclifF ! he's always, always in my 
mind : not as a pleasure, any more than I am 
always a pleasure to myself, but as my own 

Still, such passages are rare. And in Emily 
Bronte the lyric note is more commonly to be 
heard as an undertone than as a melody. With 
Charlotte, it is exactly the reverse. And when 
we think of the lyric cry in her, we think, 
I suppose, first and foremost, of two or three 
great scenes : the scene, for instance, in which, 
when her marriage has been dashed into pieces 
before her eyes, Jane Eyre shuts herself in her 
room and fights out her duty with herself and 


charlotte and 'Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

God alone ; the scene where, like a hunted 
hare, she takes refuge upon the summer moor ; 
the scene where, months afterwards, when her 
faith wavers and she is about to yield to the 
insistence of her unworthy suitor, the voice of 
Rochester suddenly thrills upon her ear, calling 
" Jane ! Jane ! " we again recall, largely, the 
rapture of Louis Moore as he looks out upon 
the wind-swept radiance of the moon, or the lyric 
passion which reigns through the closing pages 
of Villette — surely amongst the most magnificent 
prose lyrics ever conceived by the imagination 
of a poet. I 

Then again, common to both sisters Is what 
I would call the cry of revolt. And that, like 
the two qualities of which I have already spoken, 
was, so far as the novel is concerned, a new 
thing in the literature of England. Yet here 
again, between the two the difference is very 
marked. Emily is a rebel so convinced that it 
never enters her mind to argue about the matter. 
She takes revolt for granted, and there is 
no more to be said. Charlotte, on the other 
hand — perhaps less sure of her ground, certainly 
less extreme in her conclusions — stands by us 
at every step to justify and explain it. Emily 
tacitly assumes a world in which Society with its 

* Time forbade me to say anything of the Bronte Poems. 
I deeply regret this, as it inevitably results in an injustice 
to Emily. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

conventions is nothing, in which the individual, 
the passionate individual, stands alone, unques- 
tioning and unquestioned. That, I think, is the 
conception we can hardly fail to recognize 
throughout the whole of Wuthering Heights. 
Turn to Jane Eyre or Villette^ and you will find 
something curiously different. There we have 
the rebel in the very torrent and tempest of 
revolt. Be it Rochester or Jane Eyre, be it Lucy 
Snowe or Paul Emanuel, they are brought before 
us in the very act of tearing down the conven- 
tions, of breaking through the barriers, which 
public opinion — the opinion of the sluggish and 
the timorous — has set up. And the writer exults 
in showing us how those barriers give way 
before that strong will ; how nothing — nothing 
but the counteraction of the same will — can 
check hero or heroine in the fulfilment of their 

It has sometimes been denied that we can 
speak of either sister — and in particular of Char- 
lotte — as being in revolt against the conventions 
of Society. I must say that, to my mind, that 
denial rests upon a very curious misapprehension. 
It is, I think, impossible to deny that they are 
both in revolt against the conventions of Society 
unless, in a very arbitrary way, you limit those 
conventions down to one — to the marriage law. 
Against the marriage law it is, of course, perfectly 
true that Charlotte, at any rate, is in no sense 

1 80 

Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

in revolt. The whole scheme of Jane Eyre, its 
central idea, would rise in protest against any 
such belief as that. But surely it is a delusion, 
and a very dull delusion, to say that, unless it 
be against the marriage law, nothing shall count 
with us for revolt. It is, I suppose, nothing but 
the example of the French novel that has led 
us to put such a strangely narrow construction 
upon the term " revolt." And it seems to me 
abundantly clear that when we throw aside 
all such arbitrary and accidental interpretations, 
both sisters are, and it is the glory of both 
sisters to have been, eternal rebels. Both are 
fired by the conviction that the individual is 
here, that each soul is here on earth, not to 
follow the prescriptions and the rules laid down 
for it by others, but to obey the best 
promptings of its own nature, and, when they 
clearly point in one direction, entirely to dis- 
regard all the traditional barriers, all the human 
conventions, that would drive it in another. And 
it is the force with which both of them gave 
utterance to that conviction, the imaginative 
genius with which they clothed it, that is one 
of the chief glories of the Brontes. 

I need not waste words in proving this of 
Emily. But do you remember some very strik- 
ing words that Charlotte wrote to her friend, 
Mr. Williams, one of the firm who published 
for her ? They are as follows : " If you knew 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

the dreams that absorb me, the fiery imagina- 
tion that at times eats me up and makes me 
feel Society as it exists wretchedly insipid, then 
you would pity and, I dare say, despise me." 
Let us hope that Mr. Williams neither pitied 
nor despised her. There was certainly no need. 
But I will ask you — with these words in your 
ear, with all that corresponds to them in the 
novels present to your mind — can you doubt 
for a moment that among the faiths which lay 
nearest to the heart of Charlotte Bronte — as it 
was also among those which fired the imagination 
of Emily — was the faith that under certain 
circumstances — circumstances which at one time 
or other are bound to confront the life of each 
one of us — rebellion against the established code 
is the first duty, revolt against the tyranny of 
social custom the one thing needful } It may 
be a right faith, or a wrong faith. For myself, 
I believe that, in the main, it is a right one. 
But that it was the faith of Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte, I have no doubt whatsoever. 

Up to this moment I have been speaking of 
what may seem to be rather abstract matters. 
And there has been little, perhaps too little, to 
remind you that these two great women were, 
above all, great imaginative writers, great 
novelists and great artists. That being so, it 
is only what we should expect when we find 
that all these characteristics of which I have 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Co/Wparison 

been speaking to you hitherto are summed up 
and gathered together, and crystallized, in the 
characters which move through the pages of 
their stories. The note of passion, the lyric cry, 
the cry of revolt — all these are embodied, are 
they not ? in the figures of Catherine and Heath- 
clifF, of Rochester and Jane Eyre, of Lucy 
Snowe and Paul Emanuel. They are so again, 
though certainly under a less marked and obvious 
form, in the figure of Shirley. And it is the 
greatness of these two writers that there is 
nothing vague or abstract about their creations ; 
that everything did present itself to them in a 
concrete shape ; that all these ideas, instincts, 
convictions which were surging through their 
minds — all could be, and all were, embodied by 
them in figures of flesh and blood. 

So far as this applies to Emily Bronte, 1 think 
the statement justifies itself No one surely 
can read Wuthering Heights without admitting 
it on the spot. It is none the less true of the 
finest work of Charlotte. It is true at any 
rate of Jane Eyre, and it is true of Villette. 
There, too, it is no abstract thing with which 
we are concerned. There, too, it is round the 
central figures of her story that the whole of 
our interest is gathered. 

Think for a moment how new and how 
original was the conception at the time when 
it was first flashed upon this world. Think 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

what would have been the effect if the imaginary 
characters of whom we have been speaking had 
suddenly, in very flesh and blood, been shown 
into an Early Victorian drawing-room. I 
imagine that the horsehair chairs and sofas 
would at once have disjointed themselves, that 
the walls would have been shattered in pieces 
and the ceilings, with all their prismatic pend- 
ants, have flown to the four quarters of the 
sky. They are figures of a larger build and 
of a bigger make, they are souls of more fire 
and energy than those to which the men and 
women of that day were accustomed. And this 
again is one of the glories of the Brontes. Here 
again, here above all, they throw all conven- 
tion to the winds. They refuse to follow the 
beaten track of fashion and prescription, to 
paint men and women as dwarfed and mangled 
by social pressure and tradition. They have 
courage to present human nature, not as they 
were told to present it, not as they were taught 
to conceive it, not even as experience, their 
own very limited experience, might have led 
them to suppose it ; but as they knew it — I 
would rather say, as they divined it — in their 
own heart, their own imagination, their own 
unconquerable will. 

This courage is splendid in itself. It is still 
more precious in its imaginative results. For as 
we read, we feel that a breath from the outer 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

world, a breeze from the moors and the eternal 
hills, is sweeping over us ; we know that a new 
vigour and a new force has come into our lives, 
or might come if we were only wise enough to 
make it our own. I reckon this one of the 
greatest services a writer can render to the 

But, as you are well aware, it is just this 
pronounced conception of character which has 
called down the thunder of the critics. It gave 
great offence in certain quarters at the time ; 
it has continued to do so ever since. The 
critics, even the friendly critics, were disposed 
to find great fault with Charlotte Bronte for 
painting character in this fashion. George 
Henry Lewes, for instance, who ought to have 
known better, took her roundly to task on this 
account. " Why," he asked in effect, " why do 
you go outside all the limits of your own 
experience } why do you insist on creating men 
and women out of your own heart and your 
own soul? why do you not follow in the steps 
of that great woman, Miss Austen } why don't 
you observe the wise precepts which beam from 
her mild eyes } " 

Incidentally, I may say that the last phrase 
seems to me one of the worst judged, the most 
misleading, I have ever read. Have you ever 
seen a portrait of Miss Austen } Have you ever 
looked into those " mild eyes " .'' If you have, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

you will have seen the most cutting pair of 
eyes ever created. I can assure you that, when 
I look at them, I am left to wonder how it was 
that any man, woman, or child ever ventured 
to open their lips in the owner's presence. So 
much for the mildness of Miss Austen's eyes, 
and the sharpness of Mr. Levves's. 

Well, Charlotte Bronte, as might have been 
predicted, would have none of such preposterous, 
such impertinent advice. She roundly declared 
that every author has not only the right, but 
the duty, to follow the bent of his own genius ; 
and she hinted pretty plainly that, in her own 
conviction, however much she might be inferior 
to Miss Austen in observation, in delicacy of 
touch, in the artist's power of adapting means to 
ends, yet in imagination, in poetry, in all the 
higher and deeper qualities of genius, the posi- 
tions were reversed. And however deeply we 
may admire Miss Austen — within her own 
limits it is impossible to admire her too deeply 
or too warmly — -can we doubt that Charlotte 
Bronte was in the right } 

Here are two paragraphs from the letter in 
which she thrust the well-meant patronage of 
George Lewes indignantly aside : — 

" Imagination is a strong, restless faculty 
which claims to be heard and exercised. Are 
we to be quite deaf to her cry and insensate 
to her struggles ? When she shows us bright 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

pictures, are we never to look at them, or try 
to reproduce them ? And when she is eloquent 
and speaks rapidly and urgently in our ear, are 
we not to write to her dictation ? . . . When 
authors write best, or at least when they write 
most fluently, an influence seems to waken in 
them which becomes their master ; which will 
have its own way ; putting out of view all 
behests but its own, dictating certain words and 
insisting on their being used, whether vehement 
or measured in their nature ; new-moulding 
characters, giving unthought-of turns to inci- 
dents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, 
and suddenly creating and adopting new ones." 
In yet another letter to Mr. Williams, she 
sums up the whole matter in a dozen words : 
" I must have my own way in the matter of 
writing." That, I think, is the last word upon 
the subject. It is, it ought to be, the last word 
from the side of the author. It ought to be, 
if it is not, the last word to the conscience of 
the critic. Genius has its own law, and is 
bound to follow it — that is the first principle 
on which the author ought to act ; it is the 
first principle by which the critic ought to judge. 
And it was because Charlotte Bronte had the 
courage of her own convictions, because she 
was resolved that nothing should make her turn 
aside from the dictates of her own genius that 
she has cast, and has deserved to cast, so strong 


Charlotte BrontS : a Centenary Memorial 

a spell upon the heart and the imagination of 
her readers. From Emily we have no such 
declaration. Her portion, during her short life 
as an author, was not criticism, but neglect. Yet 
had she been challenged on the subject, had she 
received the same stupid advice as that inflicted 
on her sister, we all know how she would have 
met it. At the first breath, she would have 
brushed it aside with a gesture still more con- 
temptuous than Charlotte's. 

I have said that this complaint against Char- 
lotte — the complaint is, if you please, that she 
was too original — is sometimes renewed in our 
own day. Once more the critics are there to 
tell us that she ought to have followed, that 
she ought to have anticipated, such or such 
models in her craft ; that she ought to have 
treated her theme like Richardson, that she 
ought to have treated it like Balzac ; that she 
ought to have pointed the way to Gustave Flau- 
bert, that she ought to have pointed it to 
Meredith. Now I must decline to stand by while 
a great writer is thus draped in the white sheet. 
Once start upon this crooked path, once adopt a 
notion so crude as that one writer should take 
another for his model, and heaven only knows 
where you are going to stop. You will find 
yourself driven to ask Milton, " Why did you 
not follow Shakespeare ? " or Heine, " Why do 
you not follow Goethe } " or Boccaccio, '* Why do 


charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

you not follow Dante?" And then, when you 
have got to the end of your list, I see no reason 
why you should not begin it again, by the simple 
process of turning the tables upon Shakespeare, 
Goethe, Dante, and as many other authors as 
your memory, on the spur of the moment, may 
supply. The whole thing rests, in fact, upon an 
absolute misconception — I would rather say, a 
fatal ignorance — of the very first principles upon 
which both authorship and criticism are based. 

The first thing the critic has to make up his 
mind to is that genius is its own law. And if 
he makes bold to tell a man or woman of genius 
that they are to follow rules and copy models, 
he not only makes himself ridiculous — that may 
be a small loss, it may easily be a positive gain — 
but, unless he can count upon resistance as 
steadfast as that of the Brontes, he runs the risk 
of being listened to and of throttling genius at 
its birth. It is fortunate for us that Charlotte 
Bronte had the wisdom and firmness to thrust 
aside all such impertinent suggestions and to 
trust her own genius against the world. 

It is, of course, perfectly true that, writing as 
she did out of her own genius and her own soul, 
she was sometimes betrayed into unfortunate 
mistakes. But that was only when she strayed 
into a field that was not hers, and essayed a task 
for which her own genius did not fit her. Thus, 
when she set herself, as she did in Jane Eyre, to 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

paint the manners of smart Society — the manners 
of what Horace Walpole called the " great 
vulgar " — she painted something which was not 
in the least like the original and, so far, must 
be admitted to have failed. Fortunately, this is 
but one short episode in the book, and the core 
of the novel remains entirely untouched. The 
critic, however, is equal to the occasion. He 
catches hold of that one episode, he sees nothing 
but that single blemish, and cheerily pronounces 
that the genius which could have been guilty of 
such an error must have been radically unsound. 
What may be the nature of such a critic's genius, 
I will refrain from asking. I would really rather 

Seeing that so much has been made of this 
particular error, I would wish, if I may, to say 
a word by way of defence. I cannot, and will 
not, say that I do not consider it an error. 
But I will say that I hold it to have been 
magnified beyond all reason; and I think there 
may be some instruction in tracing it to its 

In judging, as she clearly did judge, the tone, 
the fashions and many of the personages of what 
we call high society to be inherently vulgar, 
Charlotte Bronte was certainly in the right. But 
when she came to paint these things, she made 
the rather fatal mistake of painting the wrong 
sort of vulgarity; of attributing to them a 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

vulgarity which may be better or worse than 
what you actually find in them, but which, 
whether better or worse, is certainly of a very 
different kind. However, even the mistakes of 
a great writer often throw an instructive light 
upon its genius. And this particular error brings 
us back once more to the fact that, among her 
many other qualities, Charlotte Bronte was 
essentially a novelist of revolt. 

In painting the high society, the county 
families of Jane Eyre^ I suppose there was a 
certain ferment of personal mortification working 
in her mind. She was, so to speak, taking 
vengeance for the humiliations she had passed 
through during the months ^in which she acted 
as governess in families of pretension. And 
perhaps there is a little too much of that spice of 
personal pique to be altogether pleasant. I think 
there is. But it is very characteristic that she 
should have taken hold of that part of her 
experience and have worked it into her novel 
in this way. It shows on the one hand that, 
keen as she was to observe, her observation was 
too much at the mercy of her personal feelings, 
above all of her antipathies. And if one instance 
of this is not enough, we may cite her handling 
of Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre, and of the 
curates in Shirley^ as a second and a third. It 
proves on the other hand, if further proof were 
needed, how wrong-headed was the advice of 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Lewes when he strove to bind her down to 
observation, for which her talent was so limited 
and uncertain, and to frighten her away from 
the work of creation in which she has seldom 
been approached. 

Yet the very defect, of which this is an 
instance, is only the other side of a quality which 
lies at the very heart and centre of her genius. 
Figures like Blanche Ingram may be mere 
parodies of what they were meant to be. But 
at least they faithfully represent the feelings of 
the woman who had chafed under the vulgar 
contempt of those who thought themselves her 
betters, but who, for all who had eyes to see, 
were immeasurably beneath her. They may be 
false as portraits of others. But, in a sense which 
you will readily catch, they are a true reflection 
of Charlotte Bronte herself, and of the type of 
woman she best loved to take as heroine of her 
tales. And the creation of that type, let us never 
forget it, was among her most marked and 
original contributions to the novel of her day 
and country. 

Charlotte Bronte, I suppose, was the first 
English novelist to bring upon the stage a figure 
long familiar to the French novelist, the femme 
incomprise^ the misunderstood woman ; the woman 
who has great thoughts in her soul, who is 
capable of great deeds and of deep sympathies, 
but who, for one reason or another, meets with 



- X 

< S 

Charlotte and E/nily Bront'^ : a Comparison 

little but scorn and neglect from the world and 
those who slavishly accept the judgments of the 
world. We know that Charlotte had strong 
feelings on this matter. We know that she 
reproached her sisters with clinging to the old 
tradition that the heroine of a novel is necessarily 
born with beauty and all kinds of feminine 
attractions. I will take, she said, a heroine 
who has no looks and no attraction, and I will 
show that she can be made as interesting, as 
full of charm, as any doll in the nursery 
of fiction. And one almost hears Charlotte, 
as she writes, saying to herself, or rather 
speaking through the lips of her heroine to 
her own employers of the past : " I am little 
and puny, and insignificant in comparison with 
you. Quite true ; in the body 1 cut a very 
poor figure by your side. But, if you could 
look within, you would find a spirit, before 
which yours would shrivel like a parched scroll, 
and you would know that I dwell habitually in 
regions where you dare not soar, not even for 
an instant." There is all that — is there not ? — 
in the mood and temper which is stamped so 
strongly on Jane Eyre^ but which, it is well 
to remember, fades out of her later novels — 
those written when her character had softened 
and her genius mellowed. You will find little 
of it in Shirley, some stray touches to the 
contrary ; yoq will find stiil less of it in Villette. 

193 N 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

So far, I have dealt mainly with the qualities 
which the two sisters have in common. I now 
pass to speak very shortly of the points in which 
they differ. And first and foremost, it is, I 
suppose, clear to all of us that of the two, the 
spirit of Emily is, beyond doubt, the more 
intense. This is her great glory. I know of 
nothing in the English novel so intense, so 
absolutely the spontaneous creation of a strong 
and fiery spirit, as the characters of Catherine 
and HeathclifF. It is futile to say that nothing 
like them has ever been seen, or ever will be 
seen, upon the earth. How do we know ? It 
is far more probable that beings, who under 
favouring conditions might have grown to some- 
thing of their form and stature, have existed, 
now and again, from the beginning, and will 
continue to do so till the end. All that Emily 
has done is to supply such conditions and let 
them work their will upon natures who, without 
them, would have remained the starved and 
stunted creatures that are within the experience 
of us all. This is the privilege of the creative 
artist ; the method by which the supreme poets 
have achieved some of the greatest of their 
triumphs — the method by which Milton created 
Satan : and ^schylus, Clytemnestra, and Victor 
Hugo, Gilliatt or Jean Valjean. Emily Bronte 
is not on the same scale as these great figures, 
but she may claim the same defence. 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

Emily, then, is more intense in spirit than her 
sister, but, after all, Charlotte follows not very 
far behind. We will not look beyond the 
English novel ; and in the English novel, where 
will you find anything comparable, in this matter, 
to Wuthering Heights^ unless in such figures as 
Jane Eyre and Rochester, as Paul Emanuel and 
Paulina ? For myself, I should wish to add 
Shirley and, in her inspired moments, Lucy 
Snowe also to the list. In all these there is a 
softened echo — and the echo is not so soft either 
— of the cry that rings from Catherine and 
Heathcliff. The difference is one not of kind 
but of degree. The two sisters inhabit the 
same world, though they may dwell in different 
regions of it ; they have the freedom of the 
same city, though their homes may be in different 
quarters. It is the difference not between the 
vegetation of the temperate zone and that of 
the tropics, but between the vegetation imme- 
diately under the equator and that of a degree or 
two farther north or a degree or two farther south. 

And I dwell upon this because I think that 
Charlotte has often perhaps hardly had justice 
done to her in the matter. She invites, she 
challenges comparison with her sister ; and on 
that comparison every man with eyes in his 
head must admit that, in this particular point, 
Emily is the stronger ; I will not say far 
stronger, but yet stronger and yet more intense. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

I take a second point : There is, - I think, a 
very marked contrast, a very clear distinction, 
between the ways in which the two sisters worked 
upon their materials, in which they went about 
to create the various characters of their stories. 
Emily created purely and simply out of her own 
soul and her own genius. Observation counted 
foi' nothing at all ; it is the spontaneous outflow 
of her genius, or it is nothing. Now with Char- 
lotte, although there are obvious affinities to this 
process, still there is no less obvious difference. 
One gathers — and I think the evidence is pretty 
clear upon the point — that she was most at her 
ease when she could take the first hint from 
some one she had seen ; from some man or 
woman \vith whom she had been brought into 
contact, if only for a moment ; from some human 
being on whom her eye had actually rested. 
The most marked instance of this — and it is 
absolutely authentic — is her creation of the 
character of Helston, the " old Cossack " who 
rules the roost in Shirley. She tells us herself 
that she saw the old Cossack once only with her 
bodily eyes when she was at the mature age of 
ten. As it was at the consecration of a church, 
he can hardly then, I imagine, have been per- 
forming Cossack duties. But the curve of 
his nose and the eagle glance of his eye struck 
home at once to her imagination ; and out of 
that fleeting vision, a vision that can hardly have 


Chariotte and Emily Brontt' : a Comparison 

lasted for more than — well, sermons were long 
in those days, shall we say two hours? — she 
constructed that extraordinarily vivid character, 
that masterpiece of a clerical dragoon : and all 
this, close on thirty years after she had seen 

So again we are told, and it certainly seems 
probable, that the greatest of all her triumphs, 
Paul Emanuel in Villette^ is wrought out of hints 
— hints faint and fugitive in the extreme — drawn 
from her old instructor in Brussels, M. Heger. 
That would seem to be almost beyond doubt. 
But, if I had met M. Heger, I am perfectly 
certain that I at any rate should not have seen, 
and I greatly doubt whether a single soul but 
Charlotte Bronte would have seen, the amazing 
combination of qualities which make Monsieur 
Paul one of the most striking and surely quite 
the most lovable, of all the characters in English 
fiction ; and all this, remember, was the pure 
act of the genius of Charlotte, working upon 
materials which in amount were absolutely 
beggarly and which to no eye but hers would 
have meant anything at all. 

I'o start from a hint of experience or obser- 
vation, to let her own instincts freely work upon 
it, her own imagination transform it out of all 
knowledge — this, then, was the distinctive method 
of Charlotte Bronte, the peculiar channel along 
which her genius most naturally flowed. The 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

most pathetic instance of this, 1 think, is to 
be found in the character of Shirley. You will 
all remember that. She took her sister Emily 
and created out of her, not what Emily was 
in her brief life of sorrow and suffering and 
anguish, but what she might have been, what 
she would have been if her circumstances had 
been less grievous, if an ampler atmosphere had 
been around her, if there had been some gleams 
of sunshine to break the almost unrelieved gloom 
and sadness of her days. That surely is very 
beautiful. And what monument to the great 
spirit who had been snatched from her side 
could have been nobler than this tribute, this 
vision of what might have been, that Charlotte 
thus laid upon her grave } 

I take one other point which can hardly fail 
to suggest itself to us, as we consider the work 
of the two sisters. In width of genius, in extent 
and range of powers, I think it must be admitted 
that Charlotte was the richer of the two. This, 
I think, is partly because, as we have just seen, 
observation enters far more largely into her work 
than into Emily's. And, when used as her genius 
prompted her to use it, when used not as a limit 
imposed from without, but as a suggestion to 
set her imagination working from within, this 
gave a variety and richness to her creations, a 
command of many different types of character, 
which apparently was denied to Emily, and which 


charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

I doubt whether Emily would have taken even 
at a gift. 

But, closely connected with this, there is 
another gift which, above all others, went to 
widen the range of Charlotte. I mean the gift 
of humour. In her latest work at any rate, in 
Villette, she showed herself to possess a fund of 
humour, of which her earlier books had offered 
comparatively little promise, of which there is no 
trace in the solitary work of Emily, and to which 
I do not believe that Emily could ever have 
attained. You may say that Joseph Smith in 
Wuthering Heights is a humorous character. 
So he is, but surely not in the same rare and 
deep-reaching sense in which we say this of 
Paul Emanuel. The elements are in themselves 
coarser, and they are more coarsely mingled. 
There is nothing in him of the fire and radiance, 
nothing of the human kindliness and far-flashing 
tenderness which, by their weird contrasts, move 
us at once to tears and laughter in the master- 
piece of Charlotte. And I can hardly conceive 
that Emily had it in her to create a character 
like this. 

The little Professor in Villette is, no doubt, 
the supreme instance of Charlotte Bronte's 
humour. But he is by no means the only one. 
The character of Hortense Moore, in the early 
part of Shirley^ is unfortunately little more than 
a sketch. But, sketch though it be, it is full 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of humour ; humour of the genial kind, the 
kind that we associate with Fielding, and even 
with Shakespeare ; or, to take a name less im- 
posing, the kind in which Mrs. Gaskeil, on her 
more modest scale, was mistress unsurpassed. 
And I shall never cease to regret that, after 
chalking that brilliant sketch in her open- 
ing pages, Charlotte should afterwards, for 
exigencies of her own, have allowed the kindly 
but rigid champion of all the domestic decencies 
to fade silently out of the story, and we see 
her no more. 

I return, however, to the figure of Monsieur 
Paul, as one of the greatest triumphs which 
human genius, in this field, has ever won. 
"Where, I should like to know, where shall we 
find anything that goes more swiftly and more 
deeply to the heart than the figure of this little 
man, that strange blending of reason and un- 
reason, of strength and of sweetness, of wilful- 
ness and self-abasement, of fury and of tender- 
ness, who slowly works himself into our affections 
but, when once he has found his home there, will 
never again be surrendered, so long as we live } 

Finally, one word must be said about the style 
of these two writers. And here again we are 
met with a curious, not to say a startling, 
contrast. The style of Emily, as we all know, 
is severely simple. Nothing could be more so. 
It is the rarest thing for her to allow herself an 


charlotte and Emily Brontt' : a Comparison 

image, a set picture, of any kind. Pictures there 
are in plenty which burn themselves upon the 
imagination. But you will find, I think, that 
they commonly do so in virtue of the sheer power 
and vividness with which the circumstances are 
conceived and rendered, that they commonly owe 
little to tone or colour, still less to any literary 
elaboration of style. So it is in the passage to 
which the Chairman ' referred in his opening 
words : the passage describing the haunted dream 
of the man who tells the story, near the beginning 
of fVuthering Heights. So it is in a score of 
other passages, on which it would-be a pleasure 
to linger, if time allowed. Once and again, 
however, Emily breaks through the rigid limits 
which she would seem habitually to have laid 
upon herself. And then at one stroke she shows 
herself a master. An image, perhaps a succession 
of images, is flashed upon our vision ; and the 
very austerity of the setting makes it all the 
more radiant and unforgettable. One instance 
of this is offered by the words of Catherine 
about HeathclifF, which I have already quoted. 
Another, and it is the last to which I will refer, 
is that which describes Heathcliff as he stands 
beneath the window of the woman he loved, 
waiting in motionless agony until her tortured 
spirit should at last be set free. The servant, you 
will remember, goes out and finds him there, 

'■ Mr. Halliwell SutclifFc was Chairman at this meeting. 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

the strong man propped against a tree in the 
dripping rain ; and she knows he has been stand- 
ing there like a stone for hours, because there 
were two ouzels flying backwards and forwards 
in front of him, gathering material for their 
nest, his presence making no more difference to 
them than if he had been a stock or bush, like 
the rest. That is a magnificent image, and it 
is one that none but a great poet could have 
conceived, none but a great stylist have cut and 
fashioned. It is, however, an exception, and, 
generally speaking, I am sure you will agree with 
me that the style of Emily is severely simple. 

The style of Charlotte, on the other hand, i 
think it must be said, is anything but simple. 
She has, in fact, a strong vein — I do not use 
the word in any unpleasant sense — of literary 
rhetoric and, as you know, the critics have 
fastened upon this and have counted it for an 
unpardonable offence. For myself I must say 
that I think these objections are very finicking, 
and it seems to me that for some years past 
— I hope the blight is at last beginning to blow 
over — there has been a tendency to judge style 
by a false standard. The only qualities of style 
that some critics are prepared to recognize are 
such qualities as urbanity and plainness and 
simplicity. Now, I am not going to deny the 
merits of all these, but after all — and it comes 
back to the same train of thought which has 


Charlotte and Emily Brontt^ : a Comparison 

already confronted us in considering the Brontes' 
method of handling character — after all, steadi- 
ness, demureness, propriety may be very excellent 
qualities in a duenna, a governess, or a valet, but 
they are not exactly the qualities which 1 should 
be most anxious to find in a writer of genius, 
which I should be apt to consider the surest 
test of genius. Anyhow it is quite certain that 
Charlotte Bronte would have none of them. It 
is quite certain also, though I doubt whether 
this has been sufficiently recognized, that she 
was in no small measure under the spell of a 
very great figure in contemporary literature, the 
greatest writer of the time, the French poet, 
Victor Hugo. 

Now, I will not deny that, with all his genius, 
Victor Hugo is in some ways a perilous model. 
I will not deny that, in following this model, 
Charlotte sometimes allowed herself to be be- 
trayed into extravagance. But for all that, it 
remains true that Victor Hugo himself, in style 
as in all other qualities of the poet, was a Titan, 
and, although Charlotte may not have been his 
equal — I do not for a moment suppose she was 
his equal — still that in no way proves that she 
too, in style, as in many other points of supreme 
importance, was not a commanding figure, a spirit 
of genius. I am confident that she was, and in 
style, as in matters (if indeed there be such) yet 
more vital, this declares itself, as I must think, 


charlotte Bronte : a Ce?jtenary Memorial 

beyond dispute. This is true, above all, of those 
passages where it is evident that she herself was 
deeply moved. Then all that betrays labour and 
effort, all that elsewhere wakes the suspicion that 
she is striving for effect, vanishes upon the instant 
and we hear the very music, the fiery melody of 
her soul. I might appeal to a score of passages 
scattered through the pages of Jane Eyre and 
Shirley^ but I would recall to your memory as 
the crowning instance of it, the closing passage 
of Villette. You will remember the circum- 
stances. The heroine has betrothed herself to 
Paul Emanuel, whom she passionately loves. 
Immediately after the betrothal, Emanuel has 
had to leave her on a self-denying errand of three 
years in the service of others, and at the moment 
when the book closes, the three long years of 
separation are at last over and Lucy is awaiting 
her lover's return. For the sake of explaining 
one allusion, I may remind you that the cry of 
the Banshee, the spirit that moves in the storm, 
has been heard once before by the heroine, at the 
very beginning of the story, and that on that 
occasion it had been the warning of an approach- 
ing death. 

The sun passes the equinox ; the days shorten, the leaves 
grow sere ; but — he is coming. 

Frosts appear at night ; November has sent his fogs in 
advance ; the wind takes its autumn moan ; but — he is 


Charlotte and Emily Bronte : a Comparison 

The skies hang full and dark — a rack sails from the west ; 
the clouds cast themselves into strange forms — arches and 
broad radiations ; there rise resplendent mornings — glorious, 
royal, purple as monarch in his state ; the heavens are one 
flame ; so wild are they, they rival battle at its thickest — 
so bloody, they shame victory in her pride. I know some 
signs of the sky ; I have noted them ever since childhood. 
God watch that sail ! Oh ! guard it ! 

The wind shifts to the west. Peace, peace. Banshee — 
"keening" at every window! It will rise — it will swell — 
it shrieks out long : wander as I may through the house this 
night, I cannot lull the blast. The advancing hours make 
it strong : by midnight, all sleepless watchers hear and fear 
a wild south-west storm. 

That storm roared frenzied for seven days. It did not 
cease till the Atlantic was strewn with wrecks : it did not 
lull till the deeps had gorged their full of sustenance. Not till 
the destroying angel of tempest had achieved his perfect 
work, would he fold the wings whose waft was thunder — 
the tremor of whose plumes was storm. 

Peace, be still ! Oh ! a thousand weepers, praying in 
agony on waiting shores, listened for that voice, but it was 
not uttered — not uttered till, when the hush came, some 
could not feel it : till, when the sun returned, his light was 
night to some I 

That is a highly-wrought passage. I am not 
concerned to deny it. On the contrary, I insist 
on it and I exult in it. And I will tell you that, 
in the whole range of English prose, there are 
few passages which I would sooner have written 
than that. And I say this not only because the 
style, as a mere arrangement of words, is 
supremely beautiful ; but also, and far more, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

because it reflects, and reflects with the mastery 
that genius alone could give, that unforced, that 
mysterious, blending of sorrow and of triumph, 
which constitutes the very essence and spirit of 
great tragedy. 

Neither in drama nor in novel do I know of 
anything which seems to me more accurately, 
more consummately, to reflect that spirit, as 
Milton for instance understood it, than the clos- 
ing passage of Villette. In its whole tone and 
in its whole tenor, it reminds me of that blended 
cry of anguish and exultation which rings out 
at the end of his own supreme drama, Samson 
Jgonistes : — 

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail 
Or knock the breast ; no weakness, no contempt. 
Dispraise or blame ; nothing but well and fair. 
And what may quiet us in a death so noble. 

Yes ; " calm of mind, all passion spent " — those 
are the words, the last words of Milton himself, 
which at once leap into our thoughts ; that is the 
tone, the deep organ tone, which peals upon our 
ears in the closing passage of Villette. 

a E. f^AUGHAN. 



By Sir SIDNEY LEE, D.Litt., LL.D. 

An Address delivered to the Bronte Society, at 
Harrogate, on January 23, 1909. 

Reprinted from the " Cornhill Magazine " by permission of 
Messrs. Smith, Elder ^ Co. 

To face p, 208, 


For nearer forty than thirty years I have been 
a whole-hearted admirer of Charlotte Bronte's 
genius. I have a distinct memory of reading 
Jane Eyre as a boy. The weird ness of the 
mystery and the fiery glow of the language 
worked like magic on my youthful mind, and 
the impression has never faded from me. 

Nor did my juvenile enthusiasm for Charlotte 
Bronte stop with her work. Mrs. Gaskell's 
sensitive pen taught me the grey pathos of the 
novelist's domestic distresses, which had a gloomy 
fascination for my early thought. In my young 
days, long before the Bronte Society was con- 
templated, I made a solitary pilgrimage to 
Haworth ; I drained a glass to Charlotte Bronte's 
memory at the Black Bull Inn, sat there in the 
ill-starred Branwell's chair, and wandered in 
Charlotte Bronte's footsteps across the windy 
moor. I well remember how my interest was 
stimulated by reading on their first appearance Mr. 
Swinburne's impassioned '* Note " and Sir Wemyss 
Reid's sober monograph, both of which came out 

209 O 

charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

in 1877. I make no claim to have kept abreast 
of the vast sequel of critical and biographical 
literature which has since circled round Charlotte 
Bronte's head. I respect the untiring labours 
of recent explorers ; I have essayed no excava- 
tions on my own account. My old enthusiasm 
has been checked neither by independent research 
nor by close study of the ever-expanding com- 
mentary. Zeal, which is untutored by the new 
learning, may seem a poor credential for one 
who speaks to a band of learned disciples. In 
arrest of judgment on what may appear pre- 
sumption, I offer two pleas of justification. 

In the first place, I happen to be, for the time 
being, through the indulgence of my colleagues, 
the chairman of the Trustees of Shakespeare's 
Birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon. Comparison 
between Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte is 
profitless. I merely urge that Shakespeare's 
Birthplace Trust has in a very general sense 
an aim in common with the Bronte Society. 
Both institutions endeavour to keep alive national 
interest in all that survives of two homes of 
genius. The problem of genius is insoluble, 
and speculation has as yet failed to account for 
the miracle of its birth. It comes into being in 
most unexpected places, more often in the cottage 
than in the palace, more often in the house of 
the poor parson than in the mansion of the 
rich merchant. Its manifestations are rare and 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

mysterious. But with all emphasis should it 
be said that, at whatever hearth it take living 
shape, it is to the spiritual benefit of men and 
women to sanctify the place. It is good for 
every human being to recognize the obligation 
to reverence genius, and that sense of reverence 
will always be stimulated — at any rate in matter- 
of-fact minds, which are in the majority — by 
preserving haunts which genius has illumined. 
Haworth and Stratford-on-Avon may well be 
mentioned in the same breath, because the care 
locally bestowed on surviving memorials of their 
native heirs of genius draws visitors to both 
places from afar. The Bronte Society and the 
Trustees of Shakespeare's Birthplace engage in 
cognate work, in the work of quickening the 
national reverence for inspired writers. I am 
glad of the opportunity of offering a greeting 
to the Guardians of the Bronte Museum from 
the Trustees at Stratford-on-Avon. 

My second justificatory plea descends to a 
somewhat lower plane of argument. On March 
31st next, fifty-four years will have passed away 
since Charlotte Bronte died.^ The number of 
persons who saw her face to face is now small ; 
her intimate associates are now dead. Those 
who can boast acquaintance with her at second 
hand, who have heard of her from her personal 
friends, are happily still numerous. Many beside 
* Written January 23, 1909. 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

myself have learnt something of her from those 
who spoke with her and grasped her hand. 
But it was my good fortune to enjoy through 
great part of twenty years close relations with 
one who not merely presided over Charlotte 
Bronte's short feast of fame, but was the uncon- 
scious model of the most attractive of all the 
full-length portraits of men in her great gallery. 
Mr, George Smith, Charlotte Bronte's publisher, 
closed a long and honoured life nearly eight 
years ago. His publishing activities filled near 
six decades. Charlotte Bronte's friendly relations 
with him synchronized with the first decade 
only ; my relations belonged to the last two. 
An amply filled interval of thirty years and 
upwards divides the publication of Jane Eyre 
from the planning of the Dictionary of National 
Biography. But Mr. Smith's powers of memory 
throughout his career were alert and vivid. 
In the comparatively recent period of my 
association with him, I gathered much from 
him of his early experience. Nor did his vigour 
know change or decay in his later years. In 
all essential features he was, I am persuaded, the 
same manly, keen-minded, sympathetic figure 
in my day as in Charlotte Bronte's. I therefore 
believe that I may without immodesty bring 
some personal knowledge and impressions of 
my own to bear on those classical episodes in 
the story of Charlotte Bronte's life and work 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

in which Mr. George Smith played a foremost 

Another friend of mine who saw Charlotte 
Bronte and talked with her is the daughter of 
the great novelist, Thackeray. Lady Ritchie, 
Thackeray's daughter, is still in all the vigour 
of a sympathetic personality, which speaks 
illuminatingly of her father's genius. Concern- 
ing the impressions which Charlotte Bronte gave 
and received when in London, I can cite testimony 
which I owe to two first-hand witnesses. Lady 
Ritchie and Mr. George Smith. There are no 
higher authorities on the topic. I have no 
secrets to divulge. In all its main features the 
story of Charlotte Bronte in London has often 
been told before. But it has features of perennial 
interest, and perhaps I may be able to tell 
it again in a somewhat differently refracted 

Much has been written by Charlotte Bronte's 
biographers of her friendship with Mr. George 
Smith, her publisher. Less has been said of 
the place which that incident fills either in 
Mr. Smith's biography or in literary history. 
Yet, to take the last aspect first, it throws 
a very broad and healthy light on an im- 
portant tract of literary territory. I have 
elsewhere styled Mr. Smith's association with 
Charlotte Bronte " a publishing idyll." It is 
rare that the epithet *' idyllic " figures in the 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

joint chronicles of publishing and authorship. 
Publishers and authors are usually held to be 
linked together by no tie more sentimental than 
desire to make money out of one another. There 
are notable exceptions ; but experience bears 
witness that few publishers and authors of emin- 
ence have throughout their working days been 
bound together in firm unbroken links of amity 
and trustfulness. It is a common failing on the 
part of publishers and authors to regard each 
other as mutual foes and preys. Yet the facts 
of Charlotte Bronte's connection with Mr. Smith, 
her publisher, show with convincing harmony that 
there is nothing in the nature of the publisher's 
or the author's vocation to set them at variance. 
The conditions of amity may be difficult of attain- 
ment. But my present parable plainly points the 
moral that, given on the one hand a publisher 
of high principle, of alert human sympathy, of 
capacity to appreciate great literature, and given 
on the other hand an author of genius, of 
modesty, of shrewdness, of frankness, and of 
honesty, there is no room for any sentiment 
between the two save genuine regard. 

The manner in which Charlotte Bronte first 
made Mr. Smith's acquaintance is too well-worn 
a topic to merit repetition here. But for the 
sake of clearness a brief reference must be made 
to the episode. Everybody knows how Charlotte 
Bronte and her two younger sisters, while they 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

were in their teens, filled reams of paper with 
poems and novels. Surviving specimens show 
a stilted juvenility of the vaguest promise. The 
domestic griefs of adult years stimulated rather 
than slackened the three ladies' literary energies, 
but their first youth seems to have passed before 
the ambition seized them to see themselves in 
print. It was not till 1846, when Charlotte was 
thirty years old, that she and her sisters com- 
missioned a London publisher to publish at their 
own expense a first volume — a collection of poems. 
The book had no success. But the sisters had 
tasted blood, and they now each offered a novel 
to a London firm. The aim of Charlotte's sister 
took eff"ect. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey 
were accepted. But her own eff^ort of The 
Professor was rejected without thanks. The 
failure did not daunt her pertinacity. Five times 
she re-addressed her manuscript to London 
publishers, only to meet with as many rebuffs. 
A seventh trial bore different fruit. The ill- 
fated manuscript reached a sympathetic har- 
bourage in the office of Smith, Elder & Co., of 
65 Cornhill. There it attracted the notice of 
the firm's reader, Mr. Smith Williams, a 
thoughtful critic, a student of fine taste. 
Williams detected the promise of The "Professor^ 
and, while declining its publication, invited with 
kindly encouragement another specimen of the 
author's work. Jane Eyre was despatched 011 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

August 24, 1847. The result is universally 

The manuscript fascinated Smith Williams, 
Mr. Smith read it one Sunday from end to end 
in the little study of his mother's house at 
Westbourne Place. It absorbed him from early 
morning till late at night. He could not tear 
himself from it to keep the day's engagements or 
even to take his meals. The book was quickly 
sent to press. Within a few weeks, on October 
16, 1847, Charlotte Bronte's genius was revealed 
to the world. ^ 

Few will need to be reminded that Charlotte 
Bronte addressed the firm under the masculine 
pseudonym of " Currer Bell," and represented 
herself as a man in all her early correspondence. 
From the first Mr. Smith saw through the 
disguise. His shrewd instinct convinced him 
that " Currer Bell, Esq.," was a woman. 

In the early months of 1848 some friendly 
correspondence passed between Mr. Smith and 

' Mr. Smith has noted the small circumstance that 
Charlotte Bronte in sending to his firm the manuscript of 
Jane Eyre apologized for her inability to prepay at Haworth 
the cost of carriage. She asked the firm to let her know the 
amount which should be charged on delivery, and promised 
to remit the sum in postage stamps. The simple request 
showed innocent anxiety lest the author's high hopes might 
be thwarted by a trifling accident, and points to obsolete 
perils of communication between writers living in remote 
places and London publishers. 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

Charlotte Bronte in her assumed name, but they 
did not meet till July, nine months after the 
publication of Jane Eyre. The immediate cause 
of the meeting need only be briefly indicated. 
Charlotte Bronte began Shirley very soon after 
she had finished Jane Eyre. At the same time 
her sister Anne had just completed her second 
novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and was 
arranging to publish it under the accepted 
pseudonym of " Acton Bell," with Mr. Newby, 
the publisher of her first book, Agnes Grey. Mr. 
Newby informed Smith, Elder & Co. of an 
unfounded suspicion that Acton and Currer Bell 
were one person. Charlotte Bronte deemed it 
a point of honour to prove their separate 
identities. Suddenly she resolved that she and 
her sister Anne should reveal themselves in person 
to Mr. Smith in London. They arrived late one 
Friday night in July 1848, and next morning 
presented themselves at 65 Cornhill. Mr. Smith 
was busily occupied, and was for a moment 
puzzled by the intrusion. Charlotte drew from 
an envelope inscribed " Currer Bell, Esq.," a 
letter which she declared that the firm had sent 
her. Mr. Smith asked with some coolness what 
was a woman's title to a communication which 
the firm had addressed to a man. The needful 
explanation followed, and there and then was 
formed that chivalric friendship which only 
death terminated. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

A visit to London was always for Charlotte 
Bronte a stirring venture. PVom girlhood, long 
before she made personal acquaintance with the 
city, the name thrilled her with a sense of 
mysterious wonder. Reports of its splendours 
at once attracted and repelled her youthful mind. 
It was her Babylon, her Nineveh, her ancient 
Rome. When her friend, Ellen Nussey, spent 
a few days there in 1834, Charlotte's letters 
vibrated vicariously with excitement over the 
dread experience. Ellen wrote carelessly of the 
first sight of the capital. Charlotte in reply 
confessed, by way of rebuke, "astonishment" and 
'* awe " at the imagined marvels of St. Paul's 
Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The 
mention of St. James's Palace filled her with 
" intense and ardent interest." The thought of 
meeting heroes like the Duke of Wellington, 
Sir Robert Peel, and Daniel O'Connell in the 
London streets stirred her deepest feelings. 
At the same time she was femininely inquisitive 
about the Court and its ceremonies. Amid the 
dithyrambics with which she plied her fortunate 
friend on her first London sojourn, she asked 
with a comical bathos for " the number of 
performers in the King's military band." The 
smallest details of London life moved her eager 

London was indeed a word to conjure with 
among all the dwellers in Haworth parsonage. 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

The dissolute, art-loving brother Branwcll craved 
in boyhood for a sight of the metropolis of art and 
sport. He gratified it for a few unlucky months 
at the end of 1835, after studying at home under 
his sister's eyes every thoroughfare marked on 
the map of the City. Charlotte's conception of 
London was first put to the test of experience in 
February 1842, when she was twenty-six. On 
her way with her sister Emily to M. Heger's 
school at Brussels, she then spent her first night 
and day in London. Her father accompanied 
them. The three visitors stayed at an old- 
fashioned tavern in an alley off Paternoster Row, 
at the Chapter Coffee House, in the very heart 
of the City, within view, through a narrow 
passage, of St. Paul's Cathedral. That object of 
her early awe with its chimes and its dome — '* a 
solemn orbed mass, dark blue and dim " — 
dominated on her arrival her mind and heart. 
With passionate impressiveness she twice 
described her first nocturnal sensations of St. 
Paul's, in The Professor^ and again in fuller detail 
in Villette. Next morning " the spirit of this 
great London " roused her to ecstasy. " At a 
bound," she said, she got into the heart of City 
life. She dared the perils of crossings with a 
light heart. The West End, the parks, the fine 
squares which she knew better at a later date 
left her cold. But the earnestness of the City 
held her spellbound. " Its business, its rush, its 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

roar were such serious themes and sights and 

Glimpses of London even more fleeting were 
caught during the next two years. She slept 
again in the City on her return from Brussels to 
Haworth in the autumn of 1842. On her second 
visit to Brussels early next year (1843) she drove 
straight from Euston Railway Station to London 
Bridge Wharf and spent the night, an unwelcome 
passenger, on the Ostend packet, an incident 
which she vividly sketched in The Professor. 
Nor does her stay in London seem to have been 
prolonged beyond a night and a day, when she 
finally quitted Brussels for Haworth at the 
extreme end of the year 1843. However great 
its passing fascination at this period of her life, 
she found no further opportunity of personal 
scrutiny. London was still a hazy dream of 
glorious possibilities when she paid her memorable 
visit to Mr. Smith at Cornhill in July 1848. 

Then, for the first time, her sojourn lasted for 
more nights than one. She and her sister Anne 
remained in the City for three full days. Their 
headquarters were still the Chapter Coffee House, 
off Paternoster Row. Two of their evenings 
were spent at the West End of the town, at No. 
4 Westbourne Place, where Mr. Smith resided 
with his mother and sisters. Mr. Smith did 
not see Anne Bronte again. She died in less 
than a year, on May 28, 1849, 


Charlotte Brontl' in London 

There quickly followed, during the next 
four years, four visits which finally brought 
London within Charlotte Bronte's full com- 
prehension. During all these visits, she was 
Mr. Smith's guest beneath his mother's roof 
It was under his auspices and in his society 
that she realized her long-cherished ambition of 
familiarizing herself with London — its thrilling 
*' themes and sights and sounds," 

Only three months of her thirty-nine years 
were devoted to the City of her early hopes 
and fears. But those three months provided, 
as she acknowledged, some of the most stirring 
moments in her career. She taxed her strength 
by her persistency as a sightseer. Her courage 
was often tried by social intercourse with her 
literary compeers to whom Mr. Smith intro- 
duced her. She nerved herself for the encounters 
with the self-questioning rebuke : " Who but 
a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets } " 
But her spirit often quailed. Yet her study of 
human character gained in subtlety and generosity 
under the varied ordeals of the great City. In 
her maturest novel, Villette^ she garnered the 
fruit of the broadened outlook on human 
nature which she owed to her London experi- 

Mr. Smith was " the guide, philosopher, and 
friend " of Charlotte Bronte's London days. 
For full two-thirds of the nineteenth century he 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

played an interesting and important part on the 
literary stage apart from her and her work. 
His association with her was but one link in 
a long chain of achievement. Yet students of 
Charlotte Bronte's history and work have an 
especially good right to ask what manner of 
man he was as she knew him. 

Miss Bronte's junior by eight years, Mr 
Smith had lately passed his twenty-fourth birth- 
day when she, at the age of thirty-two, first 
introduced herself to him at his office in Corn- 
hill. London-born, a child of Scottish settlers, 
he had already lived from boyhood a busy life, 
and had shown that large-minded spirit, that 
keen intuition, that sense of responsibility, that 
mercantile aptitude which characterized his re- 
maining three-and-fifty years. In 1816, the 
year of Charlotte Bronte's birth, his father, a 
native of Elginshire, had opened (with a partner, 
Alexander Elder, a native of Banff) a booksellers' 
and stationers' shop in Fenchurch Street. 
"Booksellers" and "publishers" were then 
convertible terms, and Smith & Elder were 
publishers on a modest scale from early days. 
Soon moving to Cornhill, the partners grafted 
on their existing business an East India Agency, 
and for more than thirty years the firm pursued 
in ever-increasing volume the joint work of 
publishers and East India agents. Young Smith 
entered the twin business at the age of thirteen, 


charlotte Bronte in London 

and at first took more kindly to the publishing 
than to the East Indian branch. His pupilage 
was brief. When he was no more than twenty 
— in 1844 — his father's retirement, owing to 
failing health, flung on him the responsible 
charge of the growing concern, and circumstances 
quickly constituted him sole proprietor and 
director. His father soon died. Encouraged 
by his mother, from whom he inherited much 
of his firm and sanguine spirit, he weathered 
formidable initial difficulties, and under his 
control Smith, Elder & Co. became the chief 
East India agents and one of the leading pub- 
lishing houses in London. 

Mr. Smith had been only four years the 
firm's responsible chief when Charlotte and 
Anne Bronte called on him, A period of pros- 
perity was opening for him in all directions, and 
before long he was to become the publisher of 
the flower of contemporary literature. The firm 
was already acting for Ruskin, then an unknown 
man under thirty, and with Ruskin Mr. Smith 
was already intimate. But at present the only 
novelist of any repute with whom Smith, Elder 
& Co. had been nearly associated was the gran- 
diloquent writer of blood-curdling romance, 
G. P. R. James. 

Of the first impressions that Mr. Smith made 
on Charlotte Bronte she has left a frank record 
in her letters. She wrote there of his youth, of 


(.charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

his practical instinct, his caution, his sense of 
honour, his enterprise, his quiet raillery. But 
her final and comprehensive study of his char- 
acter was made in the medium of fiction. There 
are grounds for regarding Villette as her crown- 
ing achievement in literature. The book is to 
a large extent a recension of her early effort 
The Professor. But her touch had grown far 
firmer, and her outlook on life had widened 
since she made that first attempt. The old 
canvas was painted anew. Characters, of which 
she had no previous conception, were brought 
into the foreground. Bright colour for the first 
time illuminated the settled gloom. The cause 
of the cloud-lifting is not far to seek. The 
radiance was clearly caught from the character 
of Mr. Smith, from her close study of London 
sights under his surveillance, and from the cheer- 
ful hospitality which she enjoyed in his London 
home. Dr. John Graham Bretton, and his 
mother, Mrs. Bretton, who shed on the novel 
its warmest glow, are Miss Bronte's full and 
candid interpretations of the personalities of her 
London host and hostess. She bequeathed to 
posterity no more delightful gifts. 

Miss Bronte has been charged with transcrib- 
ing in all her novels her private experience 
somewhat too literally to satisfy the best canons 
of art. Of that charge 1 will speak briefly 
before I close. In Villette^ at any rate, she 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

paints with curious fidelity many portraits of 
those with whom she had been in living contact 
both before and after she grew familiar with 
London. Villette is Brussels ; her own sojourn 
at M. Heger's school and her companions there 
form the staple of her argument. But with an 
ingenuity that may be fairly styled felicitous 
she weaves into her canvas all the brightest 
threads of her London life. 

No one who either knew Mr. Smith or heard 
him speak of his mother can fail to detect their 
two likenesses in Mrs. Bretton and Dr. John. 
To the portrayal of the son Charlotte Bronte 
brought her keen power of observation in its 
fullest blossom. The mother is sketched more 
lightly, but no less surely. No sign of either 
is given in the first sketch of the book in The 

Some idealization is inseparable from fictitious 
portraiture even when the artist draws the 
lineaments directly from life. In the setting of 
Dr. John in medical practice at Villette there 
is nothing which reflects any phase of Mr. 
Smith's career. Dr. John's environment is either 
imaginary or assimilates gleanings from another 
household. It may be difficult here and there 
to reconcile a feature in the counterfeit present- 
ment with one's own impression of the original. 
But the discrepancies are negligible. For those 
who knew Mr. Smith, Dr. John is a speaking 

235 P 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

portrait. Nor does the resemblance end with 
the graphic presentment of character and out- 
ward aspect. In spite of divergence from actual 
fact in the surroundings, Dr. John and Lucy 
Snowe, the heroine of Villette^ are involved in 
some digressive adventures identical with ex- 
periences which jointly befell Charlotte Bronte 
and Mr. Smith when the writer was visiting 

In personal appearance Dr. John vividly recalls 
his prototype. The well-proportioned figure, 
the handsome and manly face and brow, the 
imposing height, the blue eyes, the hair worn 
rather long, which are precisely described in the 
novel, come straight from the unmistakable 
model. There is an unusual flicker of humour 
in the stress laid on the indeterminate hue of 
the hero's hair — such as friends did not venture 
to specify except as the sun shone on it " when 
they called it golden." 

It is in psychological analysis of her friend 
and publisher's temperament that Miss Bronte 
shows her full strength. Admiringly sympa- 
thetic as is her prevailing tone, she was too 
critical and too honest an artist to indulge in 
unqualified panegyric. " Strong and cheerful, 
firm and courteous, not rash yet valiant," are 
the salient notes of her picture, and none who 
knew Mr. Smith can question the justice of these 
epithets' application. " Much feeling spoke in 


Charlotte Bronte' in London 

his features and more sat silent in his eye." 
Of Dr. John's " gay and sanguine " tempera- 
ment, of his generosity, his good nature, his 
amenity, Miss Bronte's pages do not lack the 
proof. But to her penetrating vision " Dr. John 
was not perfect any more than I am perfect." 
She declined to credit him with the attributes 
of *' a god." She had no intention, she wrote 
to Mr. Smith himself, of keeping Dr. John 
*' supremely worshipful " — " a being unlike real 
life, inconsistent with real truth, at variance 
with probability." " Human fallibility leavened 
him throughout." But the shadows are not 
dark. They add value to the portrait almost 
as much from the light they shed on the 
painter's idiosyncrasies as from any inherent 
value that attaches to them in the way of 

Charlotte Bronte's sense of humour was not 
strong. Though no stranger to the playful mood, 
she strictly checked its working. She was 
usually too serious and too earnest to approve 
any tendency to levity. Raillery or gentle 
ridicule she suspected of insincerity or worse. 
Innocent fun lay outside the normal scope of her 
intuition. Primness was intertwined with her 
passionate fibre. Hence came the main mis- 
givings of her friend and publisher. In Mr. 
Smith's letters and conversation she noted hints 
of a playful disposition which puzzled her. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

With characteristic frankness she wrote to him 
thus : — 

I will tell you a thing to be noted often in your letters and 
almost always in your conversation, a psychological thing and 
not a matter pertaining to style or intellect — I mean an 
undercurrent of quiet raillery, an inaudible laugh to yourself, 
a not unkindly, but somewhat subtle, playing on your corre- 
spondent or companion for the time being — in short, a sly 
touch of a Mephistopheles with the fiend extracted. 

She confessed that she was at times half afraid 
of the enigmatic smile of questioning rebuke to 
which Mr. Smith's features lent themselves in 
her eyes. 

Dr. John is invested with the like traits, and 
she dissects them almost mercilessly. " One 
could not in a hurry make up one's mind," 
she writes in one chapter of Villette^ "as to the 
descriptive epithet it [i.e. Dr. John's smile] 
merited. While it pleased it brought surging 
up into the mind all one's foibles and weak 
points." The sentence is an eloquent confession 
of the writer's own sensitiveness. Dr. John's 
" mischievous half-smile " at other times seemed 
to her to betray either " masculine vanity elate 
and tickled," or an " unconscious roguish arch- 
ness," which dashed the observer's equanimity. 

More subtle failings suggested themselves as 
her brush worked over the canvas. She was 
inclined to blame her hero for a lighthearted 


Charlotte Bronte' in hondon 

absorption in the pleasure of the moment and 
for a masculine self-esteem, which hovered in 
her judgment between a vice or virtue. While 
she amply acknowledged his consideration for 
others, she sometimes imputed to him slowness 
to apprehend the felicity of unsolicited benevo- 

Though a kind, generous man, with fine feeling, he was 
not quick to seize or apprehend another's feelings. Make 
your need known, his hand was open ; put your grief into 
words, he turned no deaf ear ; expect refinements of per- 
ception, miracles of intuition, and realize disappointment. 

Censure so searching bears witness to the exacting 
terms which the author imposed on her beau-ideal. 
Every side of Mr. Smith's character was 
conscientiously surveyed under cover of Dr. 
John. With graphic literalness Dr. John's 
attributes reflect Mr. Smith's magnificent capa- 
city for work and his methodical precision. 
While Charlotte Bronte was the guest of his 
mother in London, the calls of his heavy and 
incessant labours at Cornhili were often reckoned 
more than one man could sustain. It is obvious 
what Charlotte Bronte had in her mind when 
she made Lucy Snowe remark of Dr. John : — 

I can hardly tell how he managed his engagements. 
They were numerous ; yet by dint of system he classed 
them in an order which left him a daily period of liberty, 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

I often saw him hard-worked, yet seldom over-driven, and 
never irritated, confused, or oppressed. What he did was 
accomplished with the ease and grace of all-sufficing strength ; 
with the bountiful cheerfulness of high and unbroken 
energies . 

Nor does Charlotte Bronte depart a hair's 
breath from her circumambient text when she 
describes how Dr. John, despite his professional 
preoccupations, found time to gratify the heroine's 
taste for sightseeing. There is something like 
irrelevancy and inconsistency in the emphasis, 
which is laid in Villette on Dr. John's perfect 
knowledge of the points of interest in that 
French town where, according to the fiction, he 
was an alien dweller. Mr. Smith's exhaustive 
acquaintance with London, and his own accounts 
of the watchful care with which, at her instance, 
he conducted Miss Bronte through the laby- 
rinth of its wonders, supply the key to the 
riddle. Theatres, opera-houses, picture galleries, 
newspaper offices, prisons, banks, hospitals, 
Parliament house, were all open to her with 
him as her guide. The chief object of her 
adoration, the Duke of Wellington, became to 
her a familiar figure, owing to Mr. Smith's 
ingenious pursuit of him at church or in street. 
Well might Lucy Snowe say of Dr. John : 
" Of every object worth seeing he seemed to 
possess the Open, sesame ! . . . He took me to 
places of interest in the town, whose names I 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

had not before so much as heard." It was in 
one " happy fortnight " that Dr. John revealed 
to Lucy Snowe " more of Villette, its environs 
and inhabitants," than months could have shown 
her with a less efficient escort. Villette and 
London (as discovered to Charlotte Bronte by 
Mr. Smith) are here convertible terms. 

Dr. John's minutest characteristics as cicerone 
are scrutinized with the same transparent signi- 
ficance. Dr. John would leave Lucy Snowe in a 
picture gallery or museum to study or meditate 
alone for two or three hours, and call for her 
when his business set him free. He did not 
oppress her with his own comment, nor pretend 
to connoisseurship which he did not possess. 
" He spoke his thought, which was sure to be 
fresh." His sensible criticism came from his 
own resources. It was not borrowed nor stolen 
from books, nor decked out with dry facts or 
trite phrases or hackneyed opinions. Pertinent 
details interested him. There was no superfi- 
ciality about his power of observation. His talk 
was neither cold nor vague. " He never 

A touching charm envelops all the relations 
which the book allots to Dr. John and his 
mother. Mrs. Bretton has practically no charac- 
teristics which tradition fails to trace in Mr. 
Smith's mother, and many of Mrs. Bretton's 
phrases are known to have fallen from Mrs. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Smith's lips. On her first introduction to 
Miss Bronte, Mrs. Smith was fifty-one years 
old, and had been a widow less than two years. 
Her youthful spirit was undimmed, and her son, 
as he often remarked, owed to her shrewdness, 
vivacity, and sanguine temper a large measure 
of the confidence with which he faced and con- 
quered the heavy and complicated responsibilities 
that devolved on his young shoulders when his 
father died. The perfect understanding which 
linked mother and son together Charlotte Bronte 
transferred to her canvas with rare luminosity. 

In a letter to a friend Miss Bronte gave her 
earliest impression of Mrs. Smith as *' a portly, 
handsome woman of her age," and of her younger 
children as "all dark-eyed, dark- haired, and 
having clear, pale faces." This is how Mrs. 
Bretton was first brought to the reader's notice 
in Villette : — 

She was not young as I remember her, but she was still 
handsome, tall, well made, and though dark for an English- 
woman, yet wearing always the clearness of health in her 
brunette cheek, and its vivacity in a pair of fine cheerful 
black eyes. 

Throughout the book Mrs. Bretton is credited 
at fifty with " the alacrity and strength of five- 
and-twenty," with a self-reliant mood and a 
decided bearing. She never, we are told, made 
a fuss over trifles, and was always self-possessed 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

in the presence of anxiety. Though she could 
be peremptory and commanding in manner, 
cheerfulness and benevolence possessed her being. 
Her son, who honoured her counsel, called her 
" old lady." His affectionate regard for her 
mingled at their hearth with a playful spirit 
of camaraderie. Hints are given in the book 
of a difficult pecuniary situation in the affairs of 
the family, which Mrs. Bretton and her son 
boldly met side by side. The reference to the 
half-told episode ends in Villette with these words : 
" So courageous a mother, with such a champion 
in her son, was well fitted to fight a good fight 
with the world, and to prevail ultimately." None 
can doubt that Miss Bronte here was reproducing 
some confidences given her by Mr. Smith or 
his mother of the days when he first took the 
helm at Cornhill. 

The best tribute that one can pay to Mrs. Smith 
is that no more charming type of matronhood 
than Mrs. Bretton is known to fiction. Charlotte 
Bronte's final judgment on the hospitality which 
mother and son offered her in London is found 
in these fine sentences : — 

There are human tempers — bland, glowing, and genial — 
within whose influence it is as good for the poor in spirit 
to live, as it is for the feeble in frame to bask in the glow 
of noon. Of the number of these choice natures were 
certainly both Dr. Bretton's and his mother's. They liked 
to communicate happiness, as some like to occasion misery. 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Smith's lips. On her first introduction to 
Miss Bronte, Mrs. Smith was fifty-one years 
old, and had been a widow less than two years. 
Her youthful spirit was undimmed, and her son, 
as he often remarked, owed to her shrewdness, 
vivacity, and sanguine temper a large measure 
of the confidence with which he faced and con- 
quered the heavy and complicated responsibilities 
that devolved on his young shoulders when his 
father died. The perfect understanding which 
linked mother and son together Charlotte Bronte 
transferred to her canvas with rare luminosity. 

In a letter to a friend Miss Bronte gave her 
earliest impression of Mrs. Smith as '* a portly, 
handsome woman of her age," and of her younger 
children as "all dark-eyed, dark- haired, and 
having clear, pale faces." This is how Mrs. 
Bretton was first brought to the reader's notice 
in Villette : — 

She was not young as I remember her, but she was still 
handsome, tall, well made, and though dark for an English- 
woman, yet wearing always the clearness of health in her 
brunette cheek, and its vivacity in a pair of fine cheerful 
black eyes. 

Throughout the book Mrs. Bretton is credited 
at fifty with ** the alacrity and strength of five- 
and-twenty," with a self-reliant mood and a 
decided bearing. She never, we are told, made 
a fuss over trifles, and was always self-possessed 


Charlotte Bronte' in London 

in the presence of anxiety. Though she could 
be peremptory and commanding in manner, 
cheerfulness and benevolence possessed her being. 
Her son, who honoured her counsel, called her 
"old lady." His affectionate regard for her 
mingled at their hearth with a playful spirit 
of camaraderie. Hints are given in the book 
of a difficult pecuniary situation in the affairs of 
the family, which Mrs. Bretton and her son 
boldly met side by side. The reference to the 
half-told episode ends in Villette with these words : 
"So courageous a mother, with such a champion 
in her son, was well fitted to fight a good fight 
with the world, and to prevail ultimately." None 
can doubt that Miss Bronte here was reproducing 
some confidences given her by Mr. Smith or 
his mother of the days when he first took the 
helm at Cornhill. 

The best tribute that one can pay to Mrs, Smith 
is that no more charming type of matronhood 
than Mrs. Bretton is known to fiction. Charlotte 
Bronte's final judgment on the hospitality which 
mother and son ofi^ered her in London is found 
in these fine sentences : — 

There arc human tempers — bland, glowing, and genial — 
within whose influence it is as good for the poor in spirit 
to live, as it is for the feeble in frame to bask in the glow 
of noon. Of the number of these choice natures were 
certainly both Dr. Bretton's and his mother's. They liked 
to communicate happiness, as some like to occasion misery. 


charlotte Bront? : a Centenary Memorial 

talnment which Charlotte witnessed with Mr. 
Smith. Soon, however, after Charlotte left for 
Haworth, Mr. Smith was again present at the 
Devonshire House theatricals with his sister and 
a lady friend. On this occasion some scenery 
on the stage caught fire, and for a few seconds 
a panic threatened. Mr. Smith gripped his two 
companions by the wrist and with all his force 
held them to their seats. They complained 
bitterly of his roughness, but he helped thereby 
to stem the alarm. The smouldering flame was 
extinguished and confidence was restored. Mr. 
Smith wrote of the episode to Charlotte Bronte, 
and his story of the happily slender accident 
and of his own conduct bred in her throbbing 
mind the shocks and perils of the burning play- 
house in Villette. 

The last illustration which I give here of 
Charlotte Bronte's literary use of her London 
visits concerns not Mr. Smith alone, but also 
and more Immediately Thackeray, the most 
eminent of the authors whom he made person- 
ally known to his guest. 

Thackeray's fame was finally assured by the 
publication of Vanity Fair in 1847, a few months 
before the appearance of Jane Eyre. Thackeray's 
masterpiece filled Miss Bronte with enthusiastic 
admiration, and the author became at once an 
adored hero. She dedicated to him the second 
edition of Jane Eyre early in 1848. It was while 


Charlotte Bronte' in London 

Thackeray's second great novel Pendennis was 
nearing the close of its original monthly issue 
that Miss Bronte gratified one of her cherished 
ambitions by meeting Thackeray in person. 
The occasion was a dinner given by Mrs. Smith 
and her son in 1849, when Miss Bronte was 
paying them a second visit. The thrilling event 
proved for her a more trying ideal than she 
anticipated. " In company," she wrote in Villette^ 
" a wretched idiosyncrasy forbade me to see or 
feel anything. ... I never yet saw the well- 
reared child, much less the educated adult, who 
could not put me to shame by the sustained 
intelligence of its demeanour " in social inter- 
course. When she first saw Thackeray face to 
face her shyness was invincible. " Excitement 
and exhaustion made savage work of me that 
evening," she wrote ; " what he thought of me 
I cannot tell." Thackeray long remembered 
" the trembling little frame, the little hand, the 
great honest eyes." Other meetings followed 
between the two ; but though Miss Bronte lost 
her first sense of speechless dread, the personal 
association never proved quite congenial on either 
side. Thackeray and Miss Bronte reverenced 
each other's genius with genuine sincerity. But 
Thackeray's easy half-cynical conversation ruffled 
her austerity. To him she presented herself as 
'* a little austere Joan of Arc, marching in upon 
us and rebuking our easy lives and our easy 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

morals." His personality would seem to have 
both attracted and repelled her. On a morning 
call which Thackeray made her at Mr. Smith's 
house, she improved the occasion by reproaching 
him with his shortcomings. Mr. Smith has 
vivaciously described his own unheralded entry 
on " the queer scene." The little lady hardly 
reached Thackeray's elbow, but she plied the 
giant with a raking fire of invective before 
peace was restored. Miss Bronte declared that 
Thackeray behaved on the occasion " like a great 
Turk and heathen ; his excuses were worse than 
his crimes." 

The peculiarly severe standard by which she 
judged Thackeray has left a curious trace on 
Villette. In May 1851, Mr. Smith and his 
mother took her to Willis's Rooms to hear 
the novelist deliver the second of his lectures 
on the Humourists. He recognized her in the 
audience, and after the lecture playfully intro- 
duced her to his mother as Jane Eyre^ the title 
of her passionate heroine. Mr. Smith has re- 
corded that she warmly resented the mode of 
address. But she was even more embarrassed 
by Thackeray's frank appeal to her to tell him 
how she enjoyed his performance. So natural 
a request disturbed her equanimity, and she had 
no word to offer. This slight fleeting encounter 
was enshrined a iew months later in Villette. 
The Professor, Paul Emanuel, there gives, amid 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

applause, a lecture in the Villette Athenee, at 
which the heroine, Lucy Snowe, is present. Of 
the Professor's subsequent demeanour Charlotte 
Bronte writes thus in her role of Lucy Snowe : — 

As our party left the Hall, lie stood at the entrance ; he 
saw and knew me, and lifted his hat ; he offered his hand 
in passing, and uttered the words " Qu'en dites-vous ? " — 
question eminently characteristic, and reminding me, even 
in this his moment of triumph, of that inquisitive restless- 
ness, that absence of what I considered desirable self-control 
which were among his faults. He should not have cared 
just then to ask what I thought, or what anybody thought ; 
but he did care, and he was too natural to conceal, too 
impulsive to repress, his wish. Well ! if I blamed his over- 
eagerness, I liked his ndtveti. I would have praised him : 
I had plenty of praise in my heart ; but, alas ! no words 
came to my lips. Who has words at the right moment ? 
I stammered some lame expressions, but was truly glad 
when other people, coming up with profuse congratulations, 
covered my deficiency with their redundancy. 

The scene of May 1851 in Willis's Rooms 
is here faithfully recorded. 

Another scene, in which Charlotte Bronte 
and Thackeray were the protagonists, was enacted 
in Thackeray's house the following month. The 
author of Villette found no place for this second 
adventure in her fiction. But all the details 
still live freshly in the memory of Lady Ritchie, 
Thackeray's daughter, who herself played a part 
in the incident, and from her lips I learned a 
little more than I knew a week or two ago. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Both she and Mr. Smith have already described 
the chief features of the episode with vivacity 
in print. But the points of interest, whether 
new or old, are varied enough to excuse mention 
of it here. 

It was one evening in June 1851, when both 
novelists were at the zenith of their high repu- 
tations, that the giant author of Vanity Fair 
gave at his house in Young Street, Kensington, 
a small evening party in honour of the little 
authoress of Jane Eyre and Shirley. She was 
on her longest visit to Mr. Smith and his mother 
across the Park, and Mr. Smith accompanied 
her to Thackeray's house. Lady Ritchie has 
written of the excitement with which her father, 
her sister, atid herself awaited in the hall the 
great little lady's arrival. Dressed in a little 
barege dress with a pattern of faint green moss, 
the tiny and delicate woman entered the drawing- 
room, hanging on her host's arm, " in mittens, 
in silence, and in seriousness." To meet the 
celebrated writer there were gathered, as Lady 
Ritchie lately reminded me, women of the most 
brilliant intellect and speech in London. There 
were Mrs. Carlyle, the witty and sardonic wife 
of Thomas Carlyle ; Mrs. Brookfield, the clever 
wife of the fashionable preacher ; Mrs. Procter, 
overflowing in good spirits and shrewdness, 
wife of Charles Lamb's friend and biographer, 
Barry Cornwall. All were anxious to show 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

respect for the distinguished guest, and were 
exhilarated by the expectation of greeting 
her. But Miss Bronte was under a nervous 
spell, and her mental lassitude spread through 
the room. A blight settled on the assembly. 
Charlotte repulsed the ladies' advances. Mrs. 
Brookfield opened conversation with the expres- 
sion of a hope that Miss Bronte liked London. 
The skirmish ended with the novelist's curt reply, 
" I do and I don't." The gloom thickened ; 
the lamp began to smoke ; Thackeray's native 
gaiety drooped ; all hearts grew chill. The host, 
unable to cope with the silence, as his daughter 
tells us, furtively on tiptoe made for the street 
door, and sought the consolation of his club. 
His daughter, mystified by his retreat, suggested 
to the party in the drawing-room that he would 
be back soon ; but he did not return till his 
guests had departed. To Lady Ritchie's memory 
Charlotte still presents herself as a shy and prim 
little governess who regarded children like her- 
self and her sister with a freezing severity. Mr. 
Smith, Charlotte's companion at Thackeray's 
memorable party, said that as she drove back 
with him to his mother's house, she spoke acidly 
of the two little girls.' 

' I am informed by Miss Millais, daughter of the late Sir 
John Everett Millais, President of the Royal Academy, that 
her father was among Thackeray's guests at the party given 
in Charlotte Brontg's honour. Millais, then a young man of 

341 Q 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

One's sympathy goes out to this visitor to 
London drawing-rooms from the Yorkshire 
moors. Seasoned Londoners could at a first 
glance find little in her that was prepossessing, 
and many probably acquiesced in George Henry 
Lewes's ungallant designation of her as " a little 
plain, provincial, sickly-looking old maid." In 
her first draft of Villette^ which embodied so much 
of her London experience, she gave herself 
(who is the heroine) the surname of " Frost," 
altering it to " Snowe " in the final version. 
But her coldness was superficial. No good and 
charitable judges could misconceive the warm 
enchantment of her genius, and her manner 
yielded most of its self-conscious crudity and 
asperity to the sympathetic influence of Mr. 
Smith's hospitality. 

The publication of Villette in January 1853, 

two-and-twenty, had already made considerable reputation as 
a painter. " I wish," Miss Millais writes to me on February 
28, 1909, "I had written down my father's recollections of 
Miss Bronte. He saw her several times in 185 1, and must 
have been introduced to her at the party, which Lady Ritchie 
describes wonderfully as being so painful. He told me very 
much the same thing, and said he was taken up by Thackeray, 
and Miss Bronte spoke to him. He said her eyes were 
quite remarkable, and afterwards Miss Bronte remained in 
appearance his idea of a woman genius. The little lady 
* looked tired with her own brains.' He met her afterwards 
at Mrs. Procter's, where she was not so shy, and he was 
anxious to do a drawing of her, but found she was already 
engaged to sit to George Richmond." 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

brings Charlotte Bronte's relations with London 
to a fitting close. The book was begun early 
in 1 85 1, after she had twice — for some weeks 
in each of the preceding two years — enjoyed 
the hospitality of Mrs. Smith and her son. The 
manuscript occupied her at intervals until the 
autumn of 1852. When she forwarded at that 
season the greater portion to Mr. Smith, her 
correspondence gives many signs of anxiety lest 
her bold transcription of his character should 
cause him discontent. But the wise publisher 
kept his counsel, and she as prudently made no 
excuses. He pronounced in general terms a 
highly favourable verdict. Some of his criticism 
on details she neglected, and he did not press 
them. He hinted at some " discrepancy," " a 
want of perfect harmony " in the conception of 
Dr. John. There came, too, a suggestion from 
London that Dr. John should in the closing 
chapters marry Lucy Snowe. But no such 
intention found place in Charlotte Bronte's 
design. " Lucy," she wrote to Mr. Smith, 
'* must not marry Dr. John : he is far too 
youthful, handsome, bright-spirited, and sweet- 
tempered ; he is a curled darling of nature and 
fortune, and must draw a prize in life's lottery. 
His wife must be young, rich, pretty : he must 
be made very happy indeed." In the book 
Dr. John is mated elsewhere, and he passes out 
of Lucy Snowe's life without the exchange of 


, Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

any confidence of the heart. The heroine's 
passion is centred on the grim, great-hearted 
professor, Paul Emanuel, who dies shipwrecked 
in the Atlantic Ocean. The knell of death, 
not wedding bells, sounds the epilogue. 

When in January 1853 the printing of 
Villette was on the point of completion, Miss 
Bronte stayed a fourth and last time under the 
Smiths' roof in London. For a crowded fort- 
night, sight-seeing was continued under Mr. 
Smith's escort with all the old ardour. Miss 
Bronte was still Mr. Smith's guest on the day 
of Villette' s publication, and she was at hand to 
hear the burst of unqualified applause with 
which London greeted this last of the works to 
be published in her lifetime. Early in February 
1853 she left for Haworth, and Mr. Smith did 
not meet her again. Later in the year their 
two lives underwent almost simultaneously a 
momentous change. Mr. Smith became engaged 
to the lady whom he married on February 1 1 , 
1854, and Miss Bronte accepted the long-urged 
suit of her father's curate, Mr. NichoUs. Mr. 
Smith and Charlotte Bronte exchanged notes of 
mutual congratulation, and with her warm ex- 
pressions of good wishes for Mr. Smith's married 
happiness Miss Bronte's correspondence with her 
publisher seems to have closed. Her own quiet 
wedding took place a few months later (June 
29, 1854), and she died on March 31, 1855. 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

Mr. Smith lived on till April 6, 1901. Many 
and vast were the new interests which absorbed 
him in the long interval between Charlotte 
Bronte's death and his own. Many were the 
new titles he acquired to fame and affection in 
middle life and in age. He has numerous claims 
to live in literary history. He lives there as 
the friend of authors so illustrious as Thackeray 
and Browning, whose works he published after 
he became Miss Bronte's publisher. He lives 
there as the founder of the Cornhill Magazine 
and of the Pall Mall Gazette^ and even more 
conspicuously as the public-spirited projector and 
proprietor of the Dictionary of National Bio- 
graphy. But whatever recognition is due to these 
achievements, it should never be forgotten by the 
literary historian any more than by Charlotte 
Bronte's disciples that he was in youth the 
original of her sound-hearted, manly, and 
sensible Dr. John, who ranks with the most 
cheering portaits of masculine virtue that the 
hand of genius has drawn. 

That tendency, which Charlotte Bronte so 
signally exemplifies in Dr. John and Mrs. 
Bretton, of interpreting in her novels men and 
women with whom she came into personal con- 
tact, is often reckoned a defect in her art. It 
is complained, too, that she indulged overmuch 
in self-portraiture, and that her heroines, Jane 
Eyre and Lucy Snowe, present with too little 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

qualification her own outlook on life as she 
records it in her private correspondence. The 
links that bind her fictitious personages to herself 
and her living associates crowd, indeed, upon the 
student of her life, and this " audacious fidelity," 
as one critic terms it, has been cited as proof of 
limitation in her power of invention. But the 
point against her may easily be pressed too far. 
Every novelist presents in his work something of 
himself and his relations with kinsfolk, friends, 
and acquaintances. Fielding, Miss Austen, Scott, 
Thackeray, all faithfully transcribe much of them- 
selves and of the life around them. Yet Miss 
Bronte's censors, even when they admit the 
question to be one only of degree, aver that she 
depends more directly and to a larger extent than 
any novelists in the first rank on the immediate 
suggestion of her own sensation and environment. 
Neither Sterne's Uncle Toby nor Thackeray's 
Colonel Newcome, we are reminded, has an 
identifiable model. Both, as far as are known, 
were compounded in the crucible of their creators' 
imagination. On the other hand, Paul Emanuel, 
Miss Bronte's most complex and most finished 
presentment of human nature, is commonly 
reckoned a portrait from the life ; Dr. John, her 
most radiant picture of mankind, is an avowed 
delineation of Mr. Smith. 

Broadly speaking, the argument would seem 
to merit less attention than has been paid it. 


Charlotte Bronte in London 

After all, it matters little whence Charlotte 
Bronte gleaned her material compared with the 
uses to which she put it. No artist in fiction 
can reach a higher level of achievement than that 
of producing an irresistible illusion of life with 
its throbbing emotion, its elations, its depressions, 
its hopes and fears. A novelist's records of fact 
and observation come to little unless they arc 
clothed in the habiliments of genuine feeling. 
In the absence of adequate imagination, men and 
women, whence-soever they come, move on the 
printed page like lay figures. Miss Bronte's 
imaginative endowment has been excelled in 
breadth and intensity. But her imaginative grip 
was strong enough to transmute her studies from 
the life into breathing entities of flesh and blood. 
Penetrating insight lent " a colossal phlegm and 
force " to the measure of creative faculty within 
her scope and the fiery glow of her language 
leaves an abiding conviction that, whatever else 
she closely studied, she was deeply versed in the 
human heart. At any rate she was unflinching 
in her pursuit of the truth about her fellow- 
creatures, and it was her patient and honest 
scrutiny of Mr. Smith which discovered for her 
Dr. John's humane and cheery heroism. 



IV. X. Bland. 


To face p. 248. 



An Address delivered to the Bronte Society, at 
MoRLEY, ON January 1 8, 1902. 



"The Spirit of the Moors," written long ago, 
roused odd feelings when I came to it afresh. 
The years have gone, with their wear and tear ; 
but I can find nothing to add, nothing to take 
away. None but those who are bone of the 
moor's bone — bred of the heath, reared on its 
sun and sleet and tempests — can understand 
what we of the free lands know, what no way- 
faring, save the Last Adventure, can ever 
change. And on the far side of that Adventure 
there will be. one thinks, a richer purple on the 
heather, colours even more mystical and changeful 
than the old days gave when sundown came to 
swart old Ha worth Moor. In outlying farm- 
steads of the heath there are peat-fires burning 
still that have been alight for centuries. Night 
by night the good wife has banked them up, 
dusted away the ashes, and come down next day 
to stir the dying embers into heat again. It is 
so with the heart of the heath-bred man. His 
fires may seem to slumber, with dull, grey ash 
above them ; but at the core there is a red and 
quiet heat, generations old, that cannot die, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Out of it all — the moor's splendour and its 
storm — its man's strength and woman's coquetry, 
and the little, ferny glens that are like children 
singing as they gather posies — there was born a 
spirit caged by human flesh. It was a hard life 
Emily Bronte had, and her body would have been 
too weak to bear it, if it had not been for this 
fire at her heart that would not die. Whenever 
she was away from Haworth Moor, she sickened 
for the homeland ; it was not the ins-and-outs 
of parish life she needed, but the spaces of the 
heath that swung out, free and faithful, to 
Bouldsworth and the further crest of Pendle 

Out of her travail Wuthering Heights was born, 
and she died of the adventure. And it was well 
worth while. She gave her life for that one book, 
and it lives on among us — as Shakespeare lives, 
who asked for no knighthood but remembrance. 

When the dusk comes down on Haworth 
Moor, and I walk among remembered farmsteads, 
and scent the lusty fragrance of the byres, there 
is one scene in Wuthering Heights that returns 
to me with the strength and grace of an older 
day. There is little Cathy tapping at the window 
of Wuthering Heights, asking to be let in, 
because it is cold in the Further Lands until her 
mate joins her. And there is HeathcliflT, dying 
hard and sullenly, with no faith in the Beyond 
to help him through the time of separation. 


The Spirit of the Moors 

At the end of all, there are primroses, dewy- 
eyed with hope and faith in the long hereafter. 
As long as there is a strip of Northern soil 
untouched by mills and smoke — as long as the 
heather-lands roam wide and free, a sanctuary for 
the souls that reach out and beyond the crude 
din of machinery — there will be the tapping of 
little Cathy at the window, and smell of the 
heath, and the magic of old dreams. 

July 1 916. 



It has been well said that when truth left the 
valleys, it took refuge on the hills. From times 
of old the hills have been the mothers of con- 
quering sons ; from times of old the hills have 
sheltered every primitive virtue, of loyal love 
and worthy hate, of mothers' tenderness and 
fathers' pride ; from of old the soldiers of the 
world have gone down from the hill-tops and 
have prevailed. This is true of the hills where 
cattle graze, and sheep clip the springy grass ; 
it is truer still of the moorland spaces where 
grass is hard in the winning, where ling and rush 
and bilberry fight hand-to-hand with the acres 
wrested from the heath. 

Consider ! Flodden Field — that last decisive, 
desperate fight — was won by hill-fed thew and 
sinew of our Craven men. It is the same through 
history. The race has not been to the swift ; 
the victors have been slow farmer-fellows, who 
have learned endurance from wind and rain and 
cutting sleet, who have been taught the exquisite, 
long lesson of patience under heavy odds. In 


Die Spirit of the Moors 

skill of arms alone the farmer stands supreme — 
the world's history is his history, and seed and 
growing blade and harvest-time have been with 
him, like a benediction, when the ploughshare 
shaped itself into a pike, and the sickle straight- 
ened itself into a broad and hiked sword. 

Patience, infinite patience. Toil, infinite toil. 
Faith beyond the limits of bread, which is oft- 
times doubtful. These are the moorland virtues. 
The very ling, the crowberry, the late-budding 
bracken, show the same tough fibre ; the men 
of the moors, the plants of the moors, are one 
in spirit and endurance. What would come to 
the ling and the bracken, if they had no heart to 
meet the winter storms ? What would chance 
to the moorland farmers if they sank, as lesser 
men would do, beneath the weight of cold in 
winter, of drought in summer, of peevish autumn 
storms .'' Life is a fight to the moor-man always, 
and for this reason he is staunch in hatred, loyal 
in love, quick to bear arms against the adversary. 

He is no saint, this man of the moors. He 
is no sinner. He feels the wind in his teeth, 
and he fights it ; and now and then he is answer- 
able for dread deeds, which lesser folk can neither 
understand nor judge. One knows of midnights 
— historic now, so far as country tales can 
make them — when the Squire drank level with 
the poacher, and battered faces smiled at recol- 
lection of some moon-mad prank played long 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

ago. We know of superstitions which set the 
hair on end when passing lonely heaths. There 
is the glamour and the terror of the Dog on 
all the moonlit wastes of heath that lie between 
Haworth and old Bouldsworth Hill. It is a 
land of strength, and fear, and witchery. 

And yet the voice of grouse and plover, of 
snipe and moor-fowl, was stronger than man's 
voice till Emily Bronte came. The outer world 
knew nothing of the storm and fret of Haworth 
Moor till Wuthering Heights was born. The 
ling had bloomed in purple glory — the crow- 
berry had ripened its black-purple berries — dawn 
and sunset had weaved glory from the waste — 
and none had told the world how sweet these 
things can be. And then she came, and gave 
us fVuthering Heights^ and died before the song 
in her had reached its deepest compass. 

These things of the heath are hard to speak 
about ; religion of any type is hard in the 
telling to one who holds the faith ; and to 
attempt praise of Emily Bronte is to praise the 
purple of dawn, the gold and red of sunset, the 
full and satisfying glory of nature in her highest 
moods. She came at a time when the novel 
was at last the true expression of mind and soul 
and heart ; she came also at a time when the 
older traditions still held a dying power, when 
the green hue of sentimentality sicklied o'er the 
live passions of bare human nature ; yet she 



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The Spirit of the Moors 

knew what she knew, and never once did she 
waver in the expression of her faith. 

Emily Bronte is the Joan of Arc of literature. 
Joan of Arc had all the trappings of evident 
romance. She rode in armour to the fray, and, 
a woman, fought with men in open battle. She 
is a picture in history such as the populace love ; 
she has the limelight on her always, and it is 
easy for us all to applaud her heroism. Emily 
Bronte had none of these things ; she was a 
pale, great-boned, unhappy girl who shunned her 
fellows ; she had no single outward gift that 
could appeal to a man's senses ; she knew no 
lover ; yet, with it all, she has drawn for us so 
stupendous a picture of human love, of human 
hate, of human yearning after the impossible, 
that men and women, who have known passion, 
know also that she held passion's secret in her 
pen. Whence came it ,? Whence comes the 
pregnant sap in springtime trees, whence comes 
the unalterable motherhood of kine, of birds at 
mating-time, of women in their happiness ? 
None can tell. It is God-given, and that is all 
we know. 

We who have been playmates with the heath, 
and bedfellows to the whistling winds and rain 
and winter snow of Haworth Moor, know that 
the dullest line of Wuthering Heights has that 
deepest interest of all — the interest of naked 
passion and naked truth. It is the one book 

257 R 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of the world, in that it could not, in a single 
word, have been written otherwise. It is the 
one book, of the world, in that it shows the moor- 
life, as it were, reflected in a tarn of crystal 
clearness. It has no morality, it advocates no 
creed ; its teaching is the teaching of the wind 
as it sweeps from Lancashire across old Haworth 
Moor ; it is built upon the rock of Nature, 
who is pitiless and tender, angelic and demoniac, 
all in the one breath. The world has bowed at 
the shrine of many conquerors — Cassar, Alex- 
ander, and the rest — but there is one Heathcliff, 
and one only. Not Alexander at his greatest — 
when he was sighing for fresh worlds to conquer 
— could have imagined a hero of HeathclifF's 
fibre. Not Cleopatra at her softest could have 
pictured a heroine so tender, so illusive, and so 
complete, as Cathy. The thing is witchery. 

Take Heathcliff from his surroundings, and 
what have we ? A morose, self-centred savage, 
who loves his fleshly idol with a passion scarcely 
decent. But set Heathcliff in the midst of bog 
and heath and waving bracken, and he's a man 
framed after the likeness of a god. He knows 
no law, save of the wind and the whistling 
plover ; he knows no obstacle to love, save of 
the woman's heart ; he is complete, a man in 
the swiftness and the surety of his passions — 
and yet a superhuman creature, in that he is 
never less than himself, never false by word or 


The Spirit of the Moors 

deed to the past that lies behind him, to the 
fate that lies ahead. 

Indeed, it is this completeness of each character 
in the book that makes Wuthering Heights a 
masterpiece of art. The natural truth — of scene- 
drawing and of the play of passion — alone would 
have held us spellbound ; but by its art — a 
delicacy of art surprising in so rough a tale — 
it claims our quieter love upon a second — -nay, 
a twentieth reading. The very looseness of the 
narrative, the casual coming of a stranger to the 
moors, and his interrupted sittings with the 
teller of the tale, all help to conceal the steady 
handling of a story such as no brain but Emily 
Bronte's could have conceived, such as no pen 
but hers could have set down. It is not Heath- 
cliff* only who satisfies us ; it is not Cathy only ; 
it is each actor in this moorside drama, whether 
a farm hind or a nurse, a Squire of the valley- 
lands, or a hulking ploughboy of the uplands. 
Joseph, Pharisee, farm-hand, and misanthrope, 
who thrives on a sort of rough-edged joy in his 
own righteousness and in the sins of other folk, 
is as much a bit of Haworth Moor as the rocks 
that underlie its heather and the sleeting wind 
that whistles from the wastes of Stanbury. Nellie 
the nurse, a little prim, a little hard in the shell 
and vastly soft in the kernel, full of housewife's 
maxims and the bustling, tart satisfaction with 
things as they are, which distinguishes the woman 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

of her hands — she, too, is ready at this day to 
greet you and to brew a cup of tea for you in 
that happy, storm-swept land which lies between 
the edge of Yorkshire and the edge of Lan- 

And what of Cathy ? Ah, there's the south- 
west wind about her ! The south-west wind, 
that comes in summer down the wooded denes 
and clefts of our grim moorland, the wind that 
has the softness of the flowering ling about it, 
the bitter-sweet of peat and bogland, the nameless 
scents that are born every year, clean, sharp and 
fragrant, when the moorland flowers awake, 
and the primrose blows in sheltered hollows, 
and every mistal, shouldering green fields, gives 
out its witching odour of the kine. She is just 
this, the heroine of Wuthering Heights^ and we 
might as well criticize the wind of summer as 
take her character to pieces, bit by bit, as is our 
modern fashion, and set a price upon each word 
and action. Like HeathclifF, she is above 
praise or censure ; her will is the will of the 
moor- top and the sky, and we are satisfied. 
We are more ; we are enamoured, and Wuthering 
Heights is at war with womankind in that we 
dare not, in our ideal of her sex, stoop lower 
than this Cathy, with her strange eeriness and 
stranger warmth of breathing flesh and blood, 
with her perverseness that is sinless and her 
passion that is strained — as it were, through 


ne spirit of the Moors 

gossamer threads of fairy-weaving — until it 
seems, not passion, but clear water from the 
well which is needed to dilute the rough-edged 
wine of HeathclifF's frenzy. She is a woman 
to make men lightly sell their birthright — and 
sell it with a laugh upon their lips. All feeling 
comes back ultimately to odours, and Cathy is 
to us what lavender is at flowering time, what 
rosemary is, with all its sweetness of remembrance, 
what wild-roses are when they flower between 
the drooping tendrils of the honeysuckle. 

Perhaps she is the truest note in all the book, 
as possibly the short-lived summer of the up- 
lands is the interpreter of storms that have 
gone before, of tempests that will surely follow. 
Amid the roughness, the violence, the blows 
and oaths and hardships of the tale, as we get 
these brief, ensnaring glimpses of the girl, as 
we hear the pulse of Heathcliff^ beat high and 
strong, and see the love-look in his gipsy eyes, 
we are aware of sunshine and the scent of hay. 

Heathclifi^, for his part, was not born of the 
moors, and in this, too, there is a strange 
surety of instinct. Had he been moor-born, he 
would have been tied by old tradition ; as it 
was, he came, a nameless waif picked up in 
Liverpool, and. ran wild about the heath with 
no responsibility to forbears or to family pride. 
How that picture of his coming to the Heights 
lives with us ! A swarthy slip of Pagandom, 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

brought home on a dark night beneath the 
master's cloak. Even at this first moment of 
our seeing him, we feel the tragedy of after- 
years loom mistily ahead ; from the first he is 
at war with all upon the moor, except little Cathy 
and the doting master ; from the first he is 
acquiescent under ill-treatment, so long as he 
wins his point at last ; from the first, too, he 
takes up the thread of that passion for Catherine 
Earnshaw which is to grow to bitter fruit one 
day. He grows from inch to inch — good bone 
and muscle, all of it — and lives upon the moors, 
and sucks the meaning of the wind and storm as 
other lads suck lollipops. Nothing affrights him, 
except grace and gentleness ; when he and Cathy 
roam down to Linton Manor — a well-matched 
pair of fly-by-nights — and the dog fixes its curved 
teeth in the girl's ankle, he is afraid, lad as he 
is, only for her pain, and tries, with a cool eye 
for ways and means which older men might 
envy, to force open the foam-licked jaws with 
the nearest lump of rock. When he is beaten, 
bruised by the master's jealous son, he never 
whimpers — nor forgets. He is daunted only 
when Cathy — little Cathy, who had been his 
guardian angel and his scapegrace playmate — 
comes back after a five-weeks' visit to the Lintons, 
all dainty in her frippery, and minded to play 
the great lady as only a child can play it. Then, 
for the first time, Heathcliff" is afraid, as a man 


The Spirit of the Moors 

is afraid of crushing a flower beneath his thick, 
nailed boots ; for the first time he is jealous, with 
a premonition that she will nevermore be to him 
what she has been. The rift grows wider. On 
one side is the girl, dainty, generous, headstrong ; 
on the other is the lad, who has never learned 
that even flower-like lassies are to be won by 
long endurance. He is as the wind and God's 
moorland made him ; so long as he is free to blow 
whither he listeth, he is musical and gay ; but, 
soon as he is thwarted, his note turns to sullen 
wildness, as of tempest beating on thick, hill-top 
walls. Wider the rift grows and wider ; he sees 
the gentler folk from the valleys come mincing 
and smirking into that grim house of Wuthering 
Heights which asked for sterner visitors ; he sees 
his Cathy grow daily fonder of soft speeches, 
and soft clothing, and soft ways ; small wonder 
that he fled into that dismal prison-house called 
"Self," and showed the sullen bars of hate to 
all intruders, even to Cathy of the flower-like 
face and dancing heart. 

Our love for Heathclifi^ would have gone had 
he done otherwise. The girl loved him — yes, 
even in those days she loved him ! — and she 
played with her love as women will play with 
apple-bloom in Spring, forgetful that they are 
robbing earth of her just harvest. Because her 
love was in blossom only, not in fruit, she chose 
to play with it ; and afterwards the dead petals 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

showered about her, and she wondered, all in a 
maid's way, who had shaken the branches of 
that Tree of Love. And HeathclifF, mean- 
while — blunt, a man — did not ask whether this 
were sport or earnest ; all things were earnest 
to him — blows, and winter snow, and promise 
of the harvest — and he thought that Cathy was 
forgetting. He had a right to think so ; and 
there was none at Wuthering Heights well-versed 
enough in trickery to tell him of the gulf that 
lies between what a woman feels and what she 
shows. His misery turned inward, like a 
malignant growth ; he must have all or nothing 
— so much the moors had taught this gipsy — and, 
since he had lost some of Cathy, he would forfeit 
all that lay between herself and him. He ceased 
to wash — he did not speak when company was 
forced upon him — he did not trouble to un-arch 
his sullen, gipsy brows, nor to let his heart speak 
out of the dark, gipsy eyes. And most of all 
he showed those outward signs of inward misery 
when Cathy, mistress of his fate, was near. And 
she, who had learned no lesson such as Eve 
learned after her girlhood was over and done 
with, must flout him for a boor. And so the 
gulf widened, deepened, and Edgar Linton — a 
toy-terrier of a man — came walking down her 
side of the valley. 

She married Linton. It was inevitable, pre- 
destined. And she repented ; that, too, was 


'J he Spirit of the Moors 

predestined and inevitable. No throstle in its 
wicker cage was ever wilder with its wings against 
the bars than Catherine Linton when she learned 
what wedded life must be henceforward. She had 
known the winds and the rains, even as HeathclifF 
had known them ; she had lived with men, who, 
it is true, swore hard upon occasion, but who 
understood what is written upon the naked heart 
of life; and yet she was mated with one who, 
if he had gentler manners, had also a vastly 
tender skin. HeathclifF — her woman's instinct 
told her that — had loved her with a man's passion ; 
her husband loved her as a petted spaniel loves 
its mistress. 

And so a second rift grew wide and wider, 
and surely the wife was not to blame. Linton 
should have mated in the valleys ; he had no 
place with such as Catherine. True he came out 
in braver colours later, but over-late to convince 
us ; and that, too, is a triumph of character- 
drawing, for the author never meant that we 
should see any mate but HeathclifF for Catherine 
of the Heights. Like the wind, his only tutor, 
HeathclifF disappears after Cathy's marriage ; like 
the wind he reappears, and woos the sister of his 
rival ; like the wind that riots in the autumn, 
he overthrows well-garnered stacks, and while 
he woos the sister of his enemy, he snatches a 
wild meeting from his enemy's wife — from Cathy, 
who was his by all laws of fellowship and love. — 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

and leaves poor Edgar Linton, with a flicker of 
late-found bravery, to marshal his gardener and 
his stable-boys in battle array. And through it 
all the author's mind is clear — she knows that 
HeathclifF was robbed of his mate, and she deals 
out the punishment, even as fate deals out its 
punishment, to innocent and guilty. Never, 
perhaps, in any book has there been less regard 
for obvious and untrue conclusions ; there is no 
moralizing, no appeal to blind maxims and blinder 
powers of vengeance, because Heathcliff comes to 
claim his own ; the facts are stated — facts inevit- 
able as the storms that lay the hard-won harvest 
low — and we are left to gather in our fingers the 
threads of a story inevitable, true, and therefore 
just. What temptation would have beset a 
writer of weaker fibre to point, at this juncture, 
a moral so trite as to be wearisome ! The toy 
terrier of a husband might have been set in a 
frame of martyrdom, and all his weakness for- 
gotten amid a lurid tale of all his wrongs and all 
poor HeathclifFs villanies. But Emily Bronte 
is above such meannesses ; she tells what is, and 
in her heart, as we have said, she knows that 
Heathcliff is the worthier man. As for Cathy- 
unhappy, ill-mated, full of bodily weakness and 
aware of a new life in her, a life that is not hers 
and Heathcliff's, but hers and Linton's — Cathy 
knows not what to say when her gipsy-lover 
comes and shatters, with a single kiss, the 


'The Spirit of the Moors 

mockery of wedded life which she has scarcely 
attempted to render real. Cathy knows not what 
to say ; women rarely do if there is anything 
at stake ; but what she feels is rendered clear by 
a hundred subtle touches. 

Oh, it is wrong, according to straight lines 
and maxims ordered like a figure of geometry ! 
Yet she had as little power to help her gladness 
as the thrush has, when for a moment it sees 
its cage door opened and feels the singing wind 
of heaven come beating in. HeathclifF was hers, 
and she was his ; they had wedded long ago, 
with the hill-tops for their church, with laverock, 
grouse, and plover for their choir ; and no 
haphazard marriage of the flesh could alter that. 

Mark the clean way of it. This scene with 
HeathclifF, who comes to supplant the lawful 
husband ; there's never a touch of squalor or 
of sin in it ; it is no vulgar intrigue between a 
woman tired of constancy and a man who preys 
upon his neighbour's property ; it is a scene of 
natural tempest, of unavoidable, clean storm, 
as when the clouds, full-charged with lightning, 
and weary, like the kine at milking-time for 
casing of their burden, break out in rain and 
shattered tempest-wrack. The man and the 
woman do not halt to ask if they love each 
other ; as well might they question the number 
of their limbs, or the knowledge that they lived. 

This one scene is the triumph and the key- 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

note of the book ; and after it is done, after 
HeathclifF has vanished, gipsy-like, into the larger 
spaces of the moor, after Cathy lies down upon 
a narrow bed and courts delirium, we realize 
the wonder and the witchery of this passion 
which is truth. Cathy has lost what little sense 
of worldly prudence she has known ; she lies 
there in her weakness, and her heart is given 
to us, naked, plain to be read. And over that 
suffering, wilful, madly beating heart, there is 
written, across and across, the one name Heath- 
clifF. When she remembers her husband, she 
despises and is weary of him ; and again she 
goes over well-remembered scenes that she and 
Heathcliff have lived through together. What 
they dreamed, of fairies and of hobgoblins on 
Penistone Crag ; how they had listened to the 
wind as it blew through the stark old house 
of Wuthering Heights ; little snatches of moor- 
lore, learned long ago in company with her mate. 
Perhaps none but a moor-man can understand 
the feeling that one passage from this drama 
always wakes in one. It is after Cathy has lain 
long abed, fasting and fevered ; she takes the 
pillow between her little teeth and tears it into 
shreds — but the scene cannot be described in 
any other words but Emily Bronte's. 

Tossing about, she increased her feverish bewilderment to 
madness, and tore the pillow with her teeth ; then raising 


The Spirit of the Moors 

herself up all burning, desired that I would open the window. 
We were in the middle of winter, the wind blew strong from 
the north-east, and I objected. 

Both the expressions ftitting over her face, and the changes 
of her moods, began to alarm me terribly ; and brought to 
my recollection her former illness, and the doctor's injunction 
that she should not be crossed. 

A minute previously she was violent : now, supported on 
one arm, and not noticing my refusal to obey her, she seemed 
to find childish diversion in pulling the feathers from the 
rents she had just made, and ranging them on the sheet 
according to their different species : her mind had strayed to 
other associations. 

" That's a turkey's," she murmured to herself; "and this 
is a wild duck's ; and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put 
pigeons' feathers in the pillows — no wonder I couldn't die ! 
Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I lie down. 
And here is a moorcock's ; and this — I should know it among 
a thousand — it's a lapwing's. Bonny bird ; wheeling over 
our heads in the middle of the moor. It wanted to get 
to its nest, for the clouds touched the swells, and it felt rain 
coming. This feather was picked up from the heath, the 
bird was not shot — we saw its nest in the winter, full of little 
skeletons. HeathclifF set a trap over it, and the old ones 
dare not come. I made him promise he'd never shoot a 
lapwing after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more ! 
Did he shoot my lapwings, Nellie ? Are they red, any of 
them ? Let me look." 

" Give over with that baby-work I " I interrupted, drag- 
ging the pillow away, and turning the holes towards the 
mattress, for she was removing its contents by handfuls. 
" Lie down and shut your eyes ; you're wandering. There's 
a mess ! The down is flying about like snow." 

That gives us all the past in half a dozen 
lines. The latent cruelty of HeathclifF, the 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

power of Cathy over his cruelty, the intimate, 
deep knowledge of the moors they shared — all 
are brought before us as the scent of heather 
brings back forgotten scenes, forgotten hopes, 
forgotten lessons taught us by our mother, 
Nature. That mention of the lapwing — it is 
almost weird in its very fitness, like the keystone 
of a graceful arch. The peewit is a well-nigh 
sacred bird to the moor-folk, for it voices their 
own feelings ; and HeathclifF, untrammelled 
by tradition, is restrained in cruelty by the 
voice of one who has learned, from the far-off 
fathers, the sanctity of the shrill-piping lap- 

What is the charm this heath-born girl holds 
in her pen-point ? She cannot go astray ; 
whether she pictures the strength of passion, the 
weakness of glad self-surrender, the least first 
signs of springtime or of storm upon the heath, 
she always satisfies. She knows, and she is 
true to knowledge ; she gives us all the things 
that are, and passes by the things that valley- 
folk count worthy, with a courage scarcely 

They tell us Emily Bronte never mixed with 
her fellows. Her own sister gravely states that 
she knew as little of the world's life as a nun 
knows of the folk who pass her convent gate. 
Yet they forget that smoke betokens fire, that 
Wuthering Heights could never have been 


T'he Spirit of the Moors 

written by one who did not know the secret 
places and the secret passions of the moor ; they 
forget, too, that Emily Bronte, even in death, 
was solitary, reliant, and alone. Her own family 
— they have confessed it — feared to skirt the 
fence that she had raised between herself and her 
own class ; yet they did not guess that she 
sought her own companionship in her own way, 
and that the farmer-folk of Haworth were more 
to her than all the genteel worldlings who gather 
round a parsonage. She did not care for 
parochial life ; the buzz of scandal, the clatter 
of tea-cups, all the polite instruments that we 
have devised for destroying our neighbours' 
happiness and our own, had neither interest nor 
attraction for her. She was silent, unapproach- 
able, amid such matters ; but, once her feet 
were set upon that narrow and that lone green 
way which led towards the heath, she was her- 
self. Proof, beyond the pages of Wuthering 
Heights^ is not needed to convince us that she 
knew, as a native knows it, that wilder world 
of ling, and peat, and marsh, and lone farm- 
steading, which lies beyond and above the world 
of little folk. Her dialect alone is witness to 
her knowledge ; it is true to the old folk-speech 
of Haworth and Stanbury Moor, in the days 
before steam and all its million evils came to 
undo the primitive, straight honesty of the hill- 
men. Her knowledge of the springs of thought 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

is true. Her instinct of the things that matter, 
as apart from the things that serve to pass an 
idle hour, is direct as a north wind blowing over 
winter snow. 

It is part of fate's humour that truth should 
be late-born ; it is part of fate's humour that 
Charlotte Bronte should have written, almost 
wholly in apology, her preface to Wuthering 
Heights. The 'prentice hand pleaded for leniency 
towards his master's work, and what was 
written in flame and smoke of a soul's travail 
was sent out to the world with a foreword 
written by one who, great in her own way, had 
yet no intimacy with the deeper springs of life, 
of passion and of destiny. 

The book itself, by grace of fortune, is still 
with us. The spirit of the moors is still with 
us, though, like the Covenanters of old, it 
hides among the highest hill-tops. Perhaps it 
would be well to finish here, with these as our 
last words ; yet somehow there is something 
left still to be said of Wuthering Heights — and 
something, too, of that hapless brother of Emily 
Bronte's who has found few kindly judges in 
the world. 

Again the book must speak for itself, as a 
weaker page cannot speak. Soon after the crucial 
scene with HeathclifF, soon after those wild 
memories of days gone by, we find Edgar 
Linton in his wife's chamber. 




To face p. 272. 

The Spirit of the Moors 

At first she gave him no glance of recognition ; he was 
invisible to her abstracted gaze. 

The delirium was not fixed, however ; having weaned her 
eyes from contemplating the outer darkness, by degrees she 
centred her attention on him, and discovered who it was 
that held her. 

" Ah ! you are come, are you, Edgar Linton ? " she said 
with angry animation. " You are one of those things which 
are ever found when least wanted, and when you are wanted, 
never ! I suppose we shall have plenty of lamentations now 
— I see we shall — but they can't keep mc from my narrow 
home out yonder : my resting-place, where I'm bound before 
Spring is over ! There it is : not among the Lintons, mind, 
under the chapel roof, but in the open air with a headstone ; 
and you may please yourself whether you go to them or 
come to me ! " 

" Catherine, what have you done .'' " commenced tht 
master. " Am I nothing to you any more r Do you love 
that wretch Heath " 

"Hush!" cried Mrs. Linton. "Hush, this moment! 
You mention that name and I end the matter instantly, by 
a spring from the window ! What you touch at present you 
may have ; but my soul will be on that hill-top before you 
lay hands on me again. I don't want you, Edgar : I'm 
past wanting you." 

Again the true note is struck. " What you 
touch at present you may have ; but my soul will be 
on that hill-top before you lay your hands on me 
again ! " There we have the expression of wifely 
duty — of bodily duty, that is, because she had 
never had more to promise Edgar Linton. There 
we have the yearning for the hill-tops, always the 
heathery, curlew-haunted hill-tops. There, too, 

273 s 

Charlotte Bront? : a Centenary Memorial 

we have that choice of burial ground which 
afterwards, and in a cruder fashion, was to mark 
the last moments of HeathclifF. Even in death 
they were not divided, so far as the soul and 
aching heart went ; and their marriage, so far 
as this world went, was to be consummated up 
yonder on the heights, when clay met clay 
against the riven coffin boards. Ah, surely this 
was love — love of the old fashion, that dreaded 
neither storm nor charnel-house. We have 
grown too weak for such strong meat perhaps ; 
yet surely the dullest ears can hear the music 
of it, and the truth. As well deny the wind's 
power, or the sun's ; this love of Catherine and 
HeathclifF falls upon us, note by note, with a 
persuasion which is neither man's nor woman's, 
but which belongs to the singing wind, and the 
big, wild voice of a Nature who will have her 

If [Nature did not lead Emily Bronte — nay, 
rather go hand in hand with her — who did } 
Follow the after-plot of Wuthering Heights^ 
and mark its conclusion, inevitable, satisfying. 
Cathy dies, and henceforth there is the one big 
figure in the book — the figure of HeathclifF, 
who remembers — remembers, as better men 
forget. There is no second love for him ; there 
could be none ; and again it is inevitable that 
he should grow soured beyond belief, savage 
beyond conception, when all that spells the world 


T'he Spirit of the Moors 

to him is gone. His gaze is upon this world, 
not upon the promise of the next ; lose Cathy 
in the flesh, and he loses her for ever, is Heath- 
clifFs guiding thought ; and 'again he snarls, 
and growls, and curses, just as the north wind 
does between the bleak wall-crevices of Haworth 

Yet in HeathclifF, too, there is that stuff of 
soul which ranges out beyond the' coffin, ' the 
mould, the blind worm that hides' beneath the 
sod. We are all of us, just now and then, a 
little greater than the flesh that hems us in ; 
and Heathcliff", strongeri to the last than we 
poor folk can be, is greatest at the moment of 
his death. 

We will not pry upon those final scenes ; we 
will not dissect them, nor profane ; enough 
that, amid such gruesome odours of the coffin 
and the flesh dissolving into earth, we still hear 
that clear, triumphant note which Cathy sounded 
long ago. Their souls are on the hill-tops 
still — hers and Heathclifi^'s — while Linton's 
crouches in the valley-lands, away out of sight 
of the woman he married, of the lover he had 
robbed of his true mate. Again and again, in 
these last scenes, there is that weird insistence of 
the spiritual, that plain, unswerving treatment of 
the flesh which is our prison-house. Heathclifl?" 
— HeathclifF the morose, the cruel, the Ishmael 
among his kind — confesses to his faith in ghosts. 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

So does every man who has walked lonely on the 
lonely heath, who has felt the fret of spirit 
underlying the palpable, cold bluster of the 
storm. HeathclifF has faith in ghosts ; he has 
faith that spirits stalk this cruder earth ; above 
all, he has faith that souls can marry, though 
bodies have been long kept asunder. He dies, 
and is laid to rest, with the gorse and the 
waving bracken and the tough, sweet-scented 
hay above him, beside the body of his mate. 
And so this book of gloom and tragedy ends 
happily ; it ends, as the world of heath revolves 
beneath the stars, inevitably ; it ends with a 
sense of the world's injustice, and the hope of 
recompense ; and our hearts go out in yearning 
for the happiness of HeathclifF the misunder- 
stood, and of Cathy, who is the daintiest heroine 
of fiction or of fact. 

A lesser artist would have stayed here, content 
with her own triumph. But Emily Bronte goes 
farther. She has finished her book ; and, yet, 
by quiet and quieter movements of her music 
she leads us into that atmosphere of peace in 
which she knows her favourites — HeathclifF 
and Cathy — must rest. Again we are compelled 
to reverence, not the conception alone, not the 
development alone, of Wuthering Heights^ but 
the sure courage that will not stoop to end 
where recognized laws say " end " — which goes 
forward to the true, inevitable finish. Lower 


The Spirit of the Moors 

and lower sounds the music ; gentler and gentler 
grows the voice of that wild tempest which has 
wrecked the peace of Haworth Moor ; till, at 
the last, we have a passage that is but a whisper 
of the summer breeze among the bells of heath. 

*• I lingered " 

So the book ends, and there's never a word 
too much, never a word too little, in the whole 
of it. 

Emily Bronte ! What is there more to say 
of her ? The bravest and the sweetest soul that 
ever saw the truth and wrote it down. She is 
neither man nor woman ; a woman could never 
have conceived the book, a man could never 
have wrought such subtle lines of tenderness, 
and truth, and purity, as she has done. Like 
HeathclifF himself, she is above and beyond us ; 
she is a creature of the moors, a foster-daughter, 
as it were, of Nature ; and hers are the secrets 
that running waters murmur as they wash their 
peaty banks — the secrets that the lapwing shares 
— the secrets of things old and unalterable, 
hidden deep beneath the outer fret and struggle 
of what we call the world of progress. 

She must, we are sure, have kept always a 
warm heart for her brother Branwell. She was 
not one to blame lightly, for she had watched 
the hill-top thorn grow crooked under stress of 
western gales, and she understood, as {qw can 
understand, the great primeval forces that shape 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

both trees and men into the final mould. Talent 
this unhappy lad possessed ; it may be genius ; 
but he was cursed by waywardness, and drifted, 
like one lacking oars and rudder, across the 
waters of his days — drifted, and left a ripple 
here and there to mark his going, and vanished 
into silence. Yet he, too, has his place as a 
foundation-stone of all his sister's work. It was 
Emily's part to be steadfast, to suffer and be 
strong ; it was Branwell's to riot and be weak ; 
yet had there been no Branwell Bronte, to give 
a human meaning to the wild traditions, the 
wilder stories, on which his sister fed, there had 
been no Wuthering Heights. Branwell is dead, 
and the time to judge his faults is past ; unhappy, 
sinning, seeking he knew not what by tangled 
and by miry paths, his memory has still for us 
some magic, some touch of spoiled romance. 
Nor was his life in vain ; for out of his very 
sins and follies his sister made more threads than 
one, from which to weave the finished piece called 
fVuthering Heights. 

And now to finish. To say in a word what 
defies the intrusion of any spoken word. To 
talk of that '* Spirit of the Moors " which is 
strong as rock, yet airy as a dream. It is a little 
corner of the world, this heath that lies between 
Wycoller and Oxenhope, between Haworth and 
old Hebden Brigg ; yet somehow it is the touch- 
stone of all romance, and spaciousness, and 


The Spirit of the Moors 

glamour. Never a swart farm-bigging, shoulder- 
ing the lonely hill-top, but has its story ; never 
a wrinkled slope of pasture but knows a Saga- 
tale, of hunters who hunted the forbidden hare, 
of keepers who came to fight, of battles that 
were fierce, and fair, and truculent ; never a 
sheltered dene but smiles at memories of lad and 
lass, and the ways and songs of mating times 
long-dead. Out yonder is Wycoller Dene, 
whither the wooers used to walk, once upon a 
day, from distant Oxenhope, for the Dene was 
full of bonnie maids as a winter thorn is full 
of haws ; and in Wycoller we have as much 
of legend as would fill a country-side in any land 
less favoured than our Craven. The Cunliffes 
who lived, and feasted, and were merry in that 
dismantled hall — the CunlifFe who lay a-dying, 
and ordered his favourite pair of fighting-cocks 
to be brought to the bed-foot, and died cheering 
on the winning bird — that other far-off" Cunliffe 
who rides on the West wind of stormy nights, 
rides, a ghost on a ghostly horse, all down the 
Dene, and between the guardian hollies of the 
doorway, and up the stone steps into the bed- 
room of the wife he loved and wronged and 
killed three centuries ago or so. These things 
are from of old, and from of old the wind brings 
back to us, as we stand beside Wycoller's stream, 
the fragrance and the strength of happier days. 
The violets blew softer then, the primroses looked 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

outward from their nooks with a deeper and 
more wistful look in their great eyes ; the blood 
ran redder in men's veins, for love or hate, and 
women were as full of panting life as thorn-set 
roses are when the sun is in their hearts. For- 
gotten now, as a dead man out of mind, is old 
Wycoller Dene ; so much the better, for we have 
time — as love has time among the ruins — to sit 
and dream, and let that old-time madness of the 
blood rise once again and take us captive. The 
crowded ways of men — the street's confusion, 
the statesman's harvest of clapping hands, the 
hard-won ease of houses bigger than our needs 
— all these are blown away like smoke by the 
winds of Wycoller, and our eyes are opened, 
and we know. Winter, or pride of summer, all 
is one. There is never a day so stark, so sleety, 
or so dread, in Wycoller Dene, but has its 
steady sunshine — the sunshine of Romance, who 
is man's best friend on earth. 

Yet we can leave Wycoller, and go east across 
the pathless moor, and yet have witchery with 
us like a constant friend. Here the moor-fowl 
nested yester-year, and there the bog has tales of 
death to tell, if it could but open its dumb, 
greedy mouth ; up yonder, where the heather 
hugs the sky, there was treasure hid when Prince 
Charlie came marching west of Pendle Hill, and 
when the Stanbury folk were doubtful lest he 
and his Hielandmen should come nearer still. 


the Spirit of the Moors 

Yonder again, where the sunset flames, and pales, 
and flames again, there is the dreary tavern 
whence a man went outward to his death, the 
murderers stealing shadow-like behind him. 
Here the old Squire fought with his own keepers, 
and worsted them' for sport ; down in the hollow 
there, where oak-fern trembles in the breeze, 
there was a great and tender passion brought to 
ripeness ; in yonder strip of intake, hard won 
from the heath, a man worked lonely, worked 
eagerly, worked till he dropped in his own paces, 
faithful to the labour he had set himself. See 
the deep cleft there, hidden by its beard of ling 
and bilberry ; go back a space of fifty years or 
so, and count the poachers as they come — ten, 
twenty, thirty — grim-visaged men and dour, who 
march together, their will the wind's will, to 
forage where they list. The Squire has keepers 
— true, but over-few to match these stalwart 
enemies of written law. The Squire, the Parson, 
and the Lawyer may drink their wine below there 
in the sheltered valley-lands ; but the poachers 
are the magistrates on Haworth Moor, and the 
unwritten law they follow says that all which flies, 
or swims, or runs upon four legs, is any man's 
to take. 

Watch them go up and up, their dogs beside 
them. Watch the last flicker of the dying moon 
light up their swarthy faces. Then let the still- 
ness fall, the starshine and the silence, broken only 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

by the bark of farmers' dogs, the fretful protest 
of the grouse. Sit down awhile upon a clump 
of ling — the season of the year is dry enough — 
and let the past and present mingle, with the reek 
of hay and mistal-sweets to help the reverie. 

About you, where you sit, is Haworth Moor, 
ripe-rich in story before the Brontes knew it. 
About you are the old, unconquerable tales, the 
old, unconquerable roughness of the heath ; and 
truth, like a wistful, homeless maid, sits hand- 
in-hand with you. Yet about you, as you sit, 
there is the nearer presence of the Brontes. 
Visions come and go upon the smooth night-wind 
— of Emily striving to endure, and to perfect her 
masterpiece — of the old father, querulous amid 
the genius he has begotten — of Branwell, escaping 
from the tavern window with a skin too full of 
wine and foolishness. 

It is enough. Let the dreams die down, and 
hearken to the lowing of the kine, and sup the 
satisfying fragrance of the mistals and the heath. 
This is Haworth Moor, and until time is not, 
and the world is crumpled into primeval space, 
the moor-born heart will neither waver nor 

Listen again, now that the peevish wind gets 
up to scatter peace. What is the cry that comes 
across the bracken and the ling } It is the cry 
of Cathy, beating with frail hands against the 
window-bars. " I want to come in. I'm eome 


T'he Spirit of the Moors 
home. I lost my way on the moor. Let me 

come m 

Louder the wind grows, and louder still. It 
is HeathclifFs voice. He is lying prone in the 
little chamber, sobbing his heart out, and crying 
on the ghost that once was flesh and blood. 

Again the wind dies down. And from a 
neighbouring mistal comes the honey-hearted 
scent of kine. 




An Address delivered to the Bronte Society, at 
Sheffield, January i8, 1908 


The reluctance that has drawn from your extreme 
courtesy a third invitation to address the Bronte 
Society is part of what one feels in being called 
upon to deal, in any critical way, with young 
and splendid writers who were dear women. 
Were ? Isn't it better to say, are ? For me, 
Emily and Charlotte Bronte are not dead, but 
alive. It is as if they might hear us. ... I do 
not attribute this daunting sense of them to 
imagination. It is real — an effect of their work's 
vitality. This is their triumph. The sensitive 
passionate souls of the sisters passed into what 
they wrote, and still confront us, defiant, delicate; 
it is almost reasonable to say, conscious. Well, 
one must either speak the truth about their 
writings as one sees it, or be silent ; and, now 
that their fame is established, now that nothing 
matters, I would rather have kept silence, rever- 

However, it has occurred to me that the 
Bronte Society may be wondering if its usefulness 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Me?noria/ 

is not near an end for the same reason. The 
Society's main purpose in the beginning was to 
establish their fame more surely. Its main pur- 
pose now is of course educational. Is an interest 
in the Brontes adequate for any society as an 
educational purpose ^ Perhaps not. But one 
may state the causes of its intensity and endur- 
ance, and try to see, clearly, what the fiery spirit 
of their work should mean to the world. Test 
it in all ways first. They sit here listening, with 
sincere, pathetic eyes. But those eyes have never 
quailed ; and, after all, the pure gold of any 
literature is not to be had and weighed but after 
a fierce assay. They know this, fearlessly. 

What, then, has criticism to say of the work 
they did so young, with such sincerity .? Hard 
things. I suppose there are not four other 
classical novels in the world that have been 
found unsatisfactory from so many points of view 
as Jane Eyre^ Shirley^ Villette^ and Wuihering 
Heights. The critic who holds that any fair 
and sane estimate of life is humorously 
balanced may reject them all but Villette^ and 
say of even this that it lacks warmth or that 
the balance is due to a sense of justice more 
than to humour. The others fret him with 
passionate intention, and with certain frank 
narrownesses. The realist — by whom I under- 
stand the critic insisting that, whatever stress 
there be of imagination and feeling people in 


HAW ..... 11 ; l.i.M Jill, A.wwl^ l-.lJl.K 


To face p. 288. 

'The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

novels should act and speak as people would 
in life — the realist sides with the humorist ; and 
for him Villette^ though true, is not a great book 
as modern novels go. Its realism seems to have 
quenched something. Wuthering Heights con- 
forms to the letter of his law, but is greatly 
false to the spirit. In Shirley the heroine and 
Caroline Helstone often talk like writing stylists, 
and so does Rose Yorke, rebuking her mother 
at twelve years of age. Jane Eyre argues with 
a melodramatic Rochester in the same precieuse 
diction, for which there is only this to be said, 
that it fits with ;^her deportment. We are pre- 
pared for it by a school-girl conversation in 
which Miss Helen Burns, who is thirteen, re- 
marks with great precociousness and elegance : 
" I have been wondering how a man who wished 
to do right could act so unjustly as Charles the 
First sometimes did ; and I thought what a pity 
it was that, with his integrity and conscientious- 
ness, he could see no further than the preroga- 
tives of the Crown." At thirteen, Helen Burns 
laments her^ " wretchedly defective nature," and, 
in a passage of pulpit eloquence that any clergy- 
man might envy, tells how " the pale human 
soul" shall "brighten to the seraph." In 
conception and execution alike, the story is naive. 
For the critic who demands what is nowadavs 
called a yarn, Jane Eyre., however, puts into the 
shade all else that either sister wrote ; and he, 

289 T 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

for his part, cannot imagine that Charlotte — 
who produced it for the market — returned to 
sober studies of her own free will : she must have 
listened fatally to George Henry Lewes. Caring 
less for humour and realism in a novel than for 
the romantic, this critic finds that Charlotte's 
powers declined ; and that Emily's never attained 
to that mellowness of smooth performance which 
is agreeable to those who love a story for its 
own sake. 

Nor may we dismiss the critics as mutually 
destructive. They will not presently, like the 
Kilkenny cats, have done. Each tells a part 
of the adverse truth, and the novels have to 
face the sum of these parts, not a difference or 
a quotient. From any technical point of view, 
however large, faults enough may be seen in 
each of the Bronte books to make material for 
an instructive essay. A volume of such essays 
might be terrible. 

There is, however, another sort of critic, 
whose judgments are not technical. There is 
the publisher's reader. He tries to estimate 
selling value in the manuscripts he handles. 
Well, you know the history of Wuthering 
Heights^ The 'Tenant of Wildfell Hally and The 
Trofessor. It is nothing out of the way. 
And, times having changed, and books with 
them, it is interesting to ask oneself if either 
of the four important books we are consider- 


The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

ing would be at once accepted now, as a first 
novel ? 

To myself, as a working writer, the acceptance 
of Charlotte's books at all, as they standi is 
strangely hard to imagine. I will tell you why 
in a moment. Certainly, in these days of an 
overcrowded market, the publisher who should 
risk his money on even an unknown Jane Eyre 
would feel that he was indulging a rashness. 
Jane Eyre has unmistakably what is known as 
selling value ; once fairly under way, it is a 
great yarn ; but it starts too slowly, and is too 
much more than a yarn, to please the sort of 
publisher who would like it most on that 
account ; is at once too ingenuous and too 
stilted for a publisher willing to admit 
quality. In any case he would want it to 
begin at the twelfth chapter. You must plunge 
in medias res. Shirley moves so quietly and so 
naturally, a panorama of real life without con- 
structive principle or visible plot, that I suppose 
no professional reader could nowadays feel 
anything but despair of its appeal — a despair 
intensified, not relieved, by the searching truth 
of its psychology and the wealth of its exquisite 
literary beauties. These are not " selling 
qualities," and the publication of Shirley as a first 
book would be a quixotism. As for Villette — im- 
possible ! It is a novel for bilingual readers, 
and he would find it tame. Moreover, one hunts 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

on a false scent tor a hero, and in the end is 
disappointed — faults not now excused. Emily 
Bronte's masterpiece might, on the other hand — 
I think it would — have an easier birth and 
kinder welcome now than killed her young 
ambition. Its energy is modern and tremendous. 
Its direct unhalting march is modern. But the 
temperamental strangeness of its atmosphere and 
people looks more morbid than it can have 
looked in those days of romanticism ; and there 
is a great deal of dialect. In all likelihood, 
tVutheriti^ Heights would have to go the round. 
What does it signify .'' The immediate sale- 
ability of a book was never a measure of its 
true value ; never can be : it is only a measure 
of culture and alertness in the reading public. 
Worse novels are published every year by 
thousands, not all of them at the author's cost 
or risk. Novels illiterate and vicious pass the 
selling standard ; banal and vulgar novels are 
sold by the hundred thousand copies. But is 
there nothing, then, in the judgment of a 
publisher's reader ? No author who is wise 
will say so. It does uphold against the new- 
comer some artistic canons of the time, if only 
because they happen to be canons of success. 
They have been arrived at in a keen competition 
of craftsmen. The art of making novels in 
all kinds has been so developed by this com- 
petition since the Brontes wrote, that one is 


^he Brontt's as Artists and as Prophets 

obliged to admit the existence, in many classics, 
of defects from which the most trivial piece 
of work in the same kind is nowadays exempt. 
They endure, it seems, by virtue of qualities 
that override craftsmanship. 

Such classics are like the works of certain 
old masters of painting, clumsy in design, or 
strange in colour, or faulty in drawing, but 
big with some human worthiness to which design, 
colour, and drawing are secondary. In admiring 
them well, what is our mental attitude ? We 
do not blink their weaknesses : that would be 
to pay false worship and to harm ourselves and 
art : for we discern their strength truly when 
most critical. Whoever should say that Tintoret 
painted trees well would make us doubt that 
he had any true sense of the master's imagination 
and depth of soul. Trees are painted better 
by English art students. If Tintoret were 
painting nowadays with such unequal and rude 
execution, he would never become famous : 
probably Tintoret would starve, or take to 
screeving. W^hat of that } If we ever have 
a re-incarnation of Tintoret in fact, his genius 
will of course assimilate the art of the new 
age, and produce trees nearly as good as any- 

But, with many fine exceptions, there is 
nowadays an immense manufacture of worthless 
novels ; and, I am concerned at least as much 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

for the art of fiction as for a just appreciation 
of the Brontes, when I attempt to judge their 
work by the best canons of the time. Consider 
frankly its defects of craftsmanship, and so 
arrive at a firm and illuminating estimate of 
its actual merits. It will be found, I think, 
that these are poetic and ethical rather than 

Charlotte Bronte's estimate of Jane Austen 
helps us to our estimate of herself. Mr. Lewes 
has commended to her that placid worker as 
*' One of the greatest artists . . . with the nicest 
sense of means to an end, that ever lived." She 
allows the nice sense of means to an end ; but 
'• Can there be a great artist without poetry ? " 
she demands — and Mr. Lewes has no rejoinder. 
He should have written, she would say, " One 
of the greatest craftsmen." Her conception of 
a great artist is right ; and if her own use of 
means to an end be wanting in skill, or if her 
purpose be something other than artistic, the 
poetry is always there. Emily's use of means 
to an end is masterly, and in its rude compelling 
fashion unsurpassed. Moreover, Emily's purpose 
is artistic, not at all didactic or controversial. 
If Mr. Lewes had had the tact and insight to 
write to the other sister a letter of respectful 
homage on her strength of handling, we should 
have thought more highly of his critical acumen, 
though he had said with Charlotte that Wuthering 


The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

Heights was sinister, dark and goblin-like. In 
Emily, at least, he might have recognized a 
great artist, a craftsman who was also a poet, 
a savage Michael Angelo of letters. But she 
wrought too much in the realm of imagination 
to be appraised by Mr. Lewes. 

Let that pass. Charlotte's artistry is now in 
question as it appears to novelists and critics of 
this generation. She wrote two kinds of stories — 
what is known as the romantic " yarn," and 
the story of real life. Her preference was for 
the latter. Her first approach to a publisher 
was made with an example of it, The Professor^ 
and she returned to it. She is best known for 
a single example of the romantic yarn. When 
The Trofessor was rejected and she began Jane 
Eyre, it^was because, as she says a little con- 
temptuously, the publishers wanted " something 
more imaginative and poetical — something more 
consonant with a highly wrought fancy, with 
a taste for pathos." The story notion of a mad 
wife or relative confined in a secret chamber 
was in vogue : it may be found in one of the 
clever and forgotten novels of Miss Jewsbury, 
the friend of Mrs. Carlyle. Charlotte made 
the very most of it — with a depth and pure 
intensity of feeling that no writer of the time 
could match. It was a story notion strictly : in 
actual life, no such secret could be kept from 
the household, and nobody would suppose it 


Charlotte Bropti' : a Centenary Memorial 

could. This is what Leslie Stephen had in mind 
when he called Jane Eyre a baseless nightmare. 
Charlotte herself must have been very well aware 
of the flaw when she wondered " if the analyses 
of other fictions read as absurdly as that of Jane 
Eyre always does " ; and, in Villette^ the parallel 
episode of the pseudo-ghost is handled with a 
strict regard for what is possible. But see how 
much more finely the nightmare is invested with 
proper circumstance and human meaning than 
that of The Castle of Otranto or Frankenstein. 
What modern art has to say against this fantastic 
order of romance is not that it was naive — art 
sometimes is — but that in spirit and execution 
alike it was bound to be in a measure insincere. 
Charlotte Bronte came nearest of any one to 
being wholly serious with it ; she made a step 
backward from Scott, however, and the wonder 
is that she is so little blamed for doing so. The 
true apostolical succession in romantic fiction is 
from Scott to Stevenson and Weyman and 
Hewlett. The true practice of the art is based 
upon a romantic way of seeing real events. It 
selects, distorting nothing, eschewing improba- 
bilities. It selects romantic deeds and personages, 
paints romantic scenes with poetry and passion, 
but has a care that every scene and stroke of 
the detail shall be convincing. It is a practice 
much more difficult — more masculine. 

How is the art of Jane Eyre at outs with it ? 

^The Bront'es as Artists and as Prophets 

I have mentioned Helen Burns's impossible pre- 
cocity. I do not think it open to dispute that 
some of the conversations between Jane and 
Rochester are still more ludicrous. They have 
a schoolgirl air of mingled propriety and awful- 
ness that is nowhere to be matched in any book 
accepted as a classic. Mr. de Selincourt has already 
said this. But more ; the propriety is often 
priggish on Jane's part, and passion in the most 
tempestuous moments speaks in polished phrases. 
Jane Eyre is a very "young" book. That 
this fact does not explain all its imperfections, 
and that these were mainly due to Miss Bronte's 
following bad models with her critical faculty 
asleep or silenced, appears to me plain from the 
truth and fine womanliness of Shirley^ which 
came but two years later. Plain, too, from The 
Professor^ which is not so girlish either, though 
it came first. And I am very sure that Charlotte 
Bronte never desired to pin her reputation upon 
the only novel that commends itself to Mr, 
Chesterton. She indeed regarded Jane Eyre as 
an attack upon conventionality ; and the relent- 
less study of bigotry in St. John Rivers, the 
strong plea that love is greater than any human 
doctrines, and the rehabilitation of the governess, 
must have made her glad, to the last, that she 
had written it. But she knew its faults as well 
as any one, I think. In Villette there are no 
seventeenth-century bookish conversations. In 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

either Villette or Shirley there is not an improba- 
bility that matters. 

Those who believe that Charlotte Bronte's 
greatest gift was the power to write a fascinat- 
ing story hold that, in doing these later books, 
she had missed her way. Well, she chose with 
her eyes open. I think she was true to her 
character in the choice, if not to a purely artistic 
ideal ; and I doubt very much if a resolve to 
spin yarns for their own sake, even in a modern 
realistic manner, could have given us the 
spontaneous and splendid self-realization of 
Shirley^ a book to which Mr. Meredith and 
the whole feminist movement owe much of their 
inspiration. But, says Mr. Chesterton, Jane 
Eyre is the unique novel in English literature of 
the nineteenth century " where the dangerous 
life of a good person was thoroughly expressed." 
I do not know that *' thoroughly " is the best 
word; "exorbitantly" seems to me a better 
one ; but I do suppose that Mr. Chesterton 
puts a finger there upon the secret of the book's 
popularity and very life. The heroine is good 
beyond all expectation. She is so good, that, 
if Rochester had not been vain egregiously, as 
well as an unlicked cub grown rather monstrous — 
or if he had even been convincingly presented from 
the first, his secret told us — the popular verdict 
to-day must have been that she is righteous 
overmuch. His look of undesirability balances 


^The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

Jane's priggishness and school propriety ; other- 
wise the terrible plight of the man, chained to 
a vampire, and loving Jane at last with his 
whole despairing nature, would have made even 
the prudes aware that what is called a woman's 
" goodness " may in certain crises be selfish and 
petty. One is tempted to quote the preface : 
*' Conventionality is not morality ; self-righteous- 
ness is not religion." But, for the sake of the 
yarn, Jane acts conventionally in the crisis. She 
runs away, leaving Rochester to his intolerable 
fate ; and there is even a suggestion that his 
blindness, the consequence of an act of splendid 
heroism, was meant by Providence to " chasten " 
him for infidelity to the vampire. Was it so 
meant by Charlotte Bronte, the Providence who 
arranged it ? Absurd ! It is part of the yarn. 
If, as she held, pure love is greater than 
human doctrines, it is greater, too, than human 
laws ; and Jane Eyre's goodness would have 
been far nobler, if less popular, had she done 
what love in its highest expression must always 
make us do — forget ourselves for another. 
Why is Rivers introduced, but to bring this 
knowledge home to us.^ Even in a missionary 
enterprise she cannot forget herself for him ; 
and, called by a supernatural voice, she goes 
back to her lover. But the conventions are still 
respected, the vampire wife having by that 
time perished. It is a vastly ingenious plot on 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

melodramatic lines ; and, as I have said, it is 
wrought out with extraordinary feeling and 
imagination. These give to the story a certain 
greatness. But these, by themselves, are never 
passports to popularity. In the case of Jane 
Eyre, they do not seem to have been passports 
even to realism ; and my own judgment of this 
story is that its naivetes and unnatural notes 
might have ultimately killed it in spite of all, if 
it had not said so much for " goodness." The 
bold attack upon a certain type of bigot, sincere 
in every word of it, is only incidental ; yet it 
is the content most characteristic of Charlotte 
Bronte as a moralist. 

Let me not be thought contemptuous of 
selling value in a work of fiction. It is another 
term for readableness. The first business of a 
novel, whether yarn or story of common life, 
work of art or work of morals, is to get itself 
read. But there are various kinds of attractive- 
ness. Turn now from Jane Eyre to Shirley 
and Villette^ and see how modern canons are 
applied to judge the selling value of these. 

For a story of common life the canons are 
stricter than for a yarn. Its interest must 
depend wholly upon treatment, and therefore, in 
modern practice, such a story commonly begins 
in a striking way, so as to enlist our interest 
at once in its chief character or characters, and 
to distinguish these from the rest. They are 


The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

seen passing through some definite phase or 
experience. All the incidents, all subordinate 
figures, all detail, are introduced and ordered 
with a view to the definite purpose. They make 
for a definite ending. It has been found possible, 
by these means, to arrest and keep attention for 
studies of life that are true to the most normal 
experience, and that point their own morals. 
But in Charlotte Bronte's time there was 
no such craftsmanship of realism ; and, in 
differing ways, Shirley and Villette fail to con- 
sult the ease and pleasure of the reader by such 
means. Villette is autobiographical ; Shirley I 
have called a panorama. We go to them first 
either because we have been assured that it is 
very well worth our while, or because we are 
honestly studious. They are caviare to the 

But what a feast for the lover of literature is 
Shirley ! Its fresh outlook and its beauty of 
feeling are priceless. And what a wise and 
graceful mind informs the story of Lucy Snowe ! 
More craftsmanship might have made them better 
known, and especially sixty years back ; but now 
that they are accepted classics, the lack of it is 
not complained of. The craftsmanship, such as 
it is, has the great merit of being characteristic, 
like that of all spontaneous art. Why is the hero 
slow to appear, and slower still to reveal himself 
completely } Because Charlotte Bronte was not 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

a. woman who loved at sight, but had first to see 
her lover critically, and then to esteem him. 
Why, indeed, do all her people grow upon us in 
the same way ? As she avowed, her sense of 
character was not quite intuitive, not rash ; and 
I believe her interest in exact and full apprecia- 
tions was one of the main causes why she wrote. 
However, in a book, the method of slow reve- 
lation has drawbacks unless it be used for 
some particular purpose of a plot. It fogs the 
undiscerning reader, suspends and baffles his 
sympathies, and has led poor critics to say that 
Charlotte Bronte's men were not well seen by 
herself. Mr. Chesterton prefers the superficial 
pen of Jane Austen in this respect. Mr. de 
Selincourt, while sensible that Charlotte's " con- 
ception of her dramatis person<e is nearly always 
true," thinks that the manner she chooses to 
reveal them is not only crudely inartistic but false 
to life. The manner, I think, is true to life. 
That is why it is inartistic. In the case of 
Rochester, which Mr. de Selincourt has especially 
in mind, that fantastic look of the man is due to 
his false position, which is unknown to the reader. 
We have not, in English literature, a novelist 
whose grasp of his dramatis -persona is more 
absolute than Charlotte Bronte's. Their inmost 
secret, their subtlest mutabilities of mood and 
action, are known to that searching gaze, as 
well as their outward aspect and the effects 


The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

they make upon each other. They are not, 
all of" them, known sympathetically ; the means 
her scrutiny has used are often coldly ana- 
lytical ; but you must trust her insight. The 
mischief is that you are required to do so ; the 
undiscerning reader sees a character behave 
inexplicably, or provokingly ; and, of all Char- 
lotte Bronte's faults of craftsmanship, this is the 
most damaging. The early and decorative fault 
of endowing people with artificial speech is by 
comparison venial. Happily, we have consented 
to look at life without misgivings as she 
pictures it. 

Why, again, has Shirley no structure, no real 
story plot ? Because Charlotte Bronte's way, in 
life itself, is to be a quiet observer, letting life 
go by : she is satisfied passively to interpret 
its hidden passions, to feel its beauty, and to 
meditate its meanings. Emily of the masculine 
will and imagination works equally in her own 
manner, a very different one. The truth is, these 
Bronte sisters are so interesting as women that 
one is best pleased to have it so. The interest 
in their books is autobiographical chiefly ; and 
they are true to themselves in craftsmanship and 
all things. It is the secret of their greatness. 
All the faults we can find help us to prize what 
remains impeccable. 

Well, what do they mean to us } What is 
the Bronte Society's educational stock ^. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

There is all they had to say for women. . . . 
Ill this connection I think it fair to dissociate 
Charlotte Bronte from the militant sisterhood 
who sometimes claim her as a prophetess and 
leader. Her attitude to our sex is critical, but 
passive always. Shirley Keeldar calls herself 
" Captain," and takes her own way with a pretty 
air of mannishness, but she is never unfeminine 
for a moment, never stormy, or egregious, or 
ungraceful. And Shirley, the liveliest type of 
womanly independence in the books, is not 
Charlotte herself, but " Emily in happier cir- 
cumstances." In respect of sex attitude, Char- 
lotte's habit is rather seen in Jane Eyre and 
Lucy Snowe. She wrote Shirley in chivalrous 
defence of womanhood against misprizing egotis- 
tical man, who in those days, and in Yorkshire, 
stood very much in need of her satiric handling ; 
and there is one figure at least, that of Mr. 
Sympson, who, being seen from the outside only, 
and in a state of mind that Americans know as 
" hopping mad," has an air of caricature. But 
she accepts Robert Moore after all. And she 
utterly submits, in Villette^ to the kind-hearted 
tyrannies of M. Paul Emanuel, which are even 
more eccentric than Mr. Sympson 's. It is not 
for a notion of equality in the sexes that Char- 
lotte Bronte contends. I think she tried to set 
us far too high. '* Nothing ever charms me 
more," says Shirley, " than when I meet my 




Tu face p. 304. 

The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

superior. The higher above me, so much the 
better ; it degrades to stoop : it is glorious to 
look up." And of man in the abstract, "I 
would scorn to contend for empire with him — 
I would scorn it. Shall my left hand dispute for 
precedence with my right ? " No : we go to 
Charlotte Bronte's books to see ourselves with 
the clear eyes of a conscientious woman, for 
whom love is the greatest good in life but who 
can only love where she esteems highly. Her 
glance is piercing, and for injustice, folly, or 
humbug it is quite inexorable : she breathes 
defiance oftener than she sparkles fun : but she 
does us good like a medicine, and threatens 
nothing harmful. 

I do not say she is judicial. Charlotte Bronte 
frankly takes the side of her sex. But, for a 
parti pris^ it is fairly taken. The writing quality 
forfeited in some degree by championship is 
humour, and that loss is nearly all we have to 
regret in it. Some poverty of humour, a 
strenuous note of seriousness, at times a certain 
want of good spirits and happy tolerance, cause 
her realism to be classed below that of the 
greatest writers of fiction. It is sad to find no 
downright hearty laughs ; her very smile, when 
it is not beautiful with pity, has an air of quiet 
malice ; she does not live so warmly as to feel 
perfectly indulgent. For her supreme gift is to 
feel keenly, as Emily's is. A fuller and more 

305 u 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

diversified contact with life than Emily's has 
compelled her to find accommodations ; but 
this, alas ! while dulling poetry has not made 
her quite serenely optimist. She needed happi- 
ness : happiness of a kind came too late. To 
Emily, whose need was even greater, it never 

The cry for happiness, heard in all their work 
as an undertone, and uttered frankly in many 
passages of great beauty, seems to me to be very 
specially a Bronte note ; and I think it is the 
tragic contrast between their capacity for it and 
the incompleteness of their lives that has won for 
them so many lovers. The cry has a sharpness 
as if they had foreseen the end. We feel an 
ache of tenderness for them, greater than for 
either Keats, or Shelley, or Chatterton. It 
makes critical estimates a heavy business, to be 
done reluctantly. When I consider the absence 
of any such joy of labour in Villette as abounds 
in Shirley^ and remember the disenchantments and 
the griefs endured before it was written, and 
that nothing followed it, Charlotte Bronte's last 
years appear extremely grey. One likes to 
think that ^she did know happiness before 
she died. But it was terribly brief, and, how- 
ever consoling, it had not the ecstasy of her 
imagination. As for her work, its vital force 
had ebbed as it had gained sobriety, balance, and 
technical excellence. The fiery and pure spirit 


The Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

seems to have burned its frail envelope, as 
Emily's had done seven years earlier. 

What have they left to us, these rare spirits, 
exquisitely young ? Work so sincere that 
we are as near to them as lovers can be ever. 
Their very faults — Emily's her aloofness; 
Charlotte's her bias, and Puritanism, and preach- 
ing seriousness — their very faults endear them. 
We see these faults as the defects of noble 
qualities. They are women who have suffered 
much because the world will not arrange itself 
to the great pattern of their ideals and sharp 
desires ; and doubtless they and all of us were 
happier if we smiled at it. But is the world 
to be without its martyrs and its prophets I 
Theirs is a divine discontent, by which we are 
to learn how the world may be made a habitation 
easier to smile in. They suff^er for our sakes. 
These dear women, delicate and passionate 
idealists, have done what I take to be a priceless 
thing for an age in which conventional faiths 
were to crumble fast away. They put us in con- 
tact with great Nature — a Book of Revelations of 
which the glory is imperishable and the comfort- 
able promise sure ; — and they have done this 
in passages of pure and musical English, poetic 
and searching prose, that persuade us of the 
truth of their meaning by its very beauty. It is 
not a message to those who are happy and sure 
already. It is not a message to the Philistines. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

It is an auricular sweet message to the chosen, 
in doubt and in adversity. For Charlotte, 
Nature has sunny tears and a soft lap ; for 
Emily, that mystery of spiritual meaning which 
assures her that nothing dies, nothing is in- 

Vain are the thousand creeds 
That move men's hearts : unutterably vain : 

Worthless as withered weeds, 
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main. 

To waken doubt in one 
Holding so fast by Thine infinity. 

So much poetry is nowhere else, in English 
writers of fiction, to be found with such an 
unsparing critical outlook and such sincerity of 
self-expression as in the Brontes. Remark, that 
sincerity and the critical spirit put them in 
touch with modern thought inseverably ; and 
then consider, if you please, the question I asked 
at first, and whether their educational force is 
likely to be soon exhausted. Their note, as 
Dr. Robertson NicoU feels it, is "fortitude." 
Well, freedom and perfect honesty of thought, 
scorn of untruth and of injustice, demand that 
note in all who see the shams and cruelties of 
men and yet keep faith in beauty, honour, love, 
and a great design. The demand will not abate. 
It grows. I am glad that no horn-eyed person 
has attempted a synthesis of Charlotte Bronte's 


T'he Brontes as Artists and as Prophets 

intolerances and prepossessions, her scepticisms 
and her beliefs, with a view to claim her for 
this or that political class or sect of Christian 
worshippers in her time. It may yet be done, 
doubtless. They are probably not reconcilable, 
these prejudices, and in any case the attempt 
would be unintelligent. What we honour and 
prize, alike in her and in her stronger sister, is 
the fearless, dainty spirit, true to itself as well 
as to the higher hope. Freedom's battle is 
bequeathed to ourselves. 

Lyrical and heroic souls, in their own day 
they stood in the van of that battle, to give 
succour and to fight with equal helpfulness. 
This is why they will not be forgotten. This 
is the reason for a cult of Bronte worshippers, 
who keep their praise alive and spread their 



By butler wood 


Although much has been written on the 
topography of the novels and other places con- 
nected with the Bronte family, as far as I am 
aware no attempt has hitherto been made to work 
out an Itinerary which may be followed by those 
who wish to make a systematic tour of the dis- 
tricts concerned. For the present purpose it will 
not be necessary, nor is it desirable, to enter into 
any detailed account of the places mentioned ; 
particulars of these must be looked for in such 
works as Dr. Stuart's "Bronte Country," 1888, 
and H. E. Wroot's " Persons and Places of the 
Bronte Novels," 1906. Many articles on separate 
places have also appeared from time to time in 
the Transactions of the Bronte Society and in 
magazines and newspapers. These, and others 
mentioned in the Bibliographies issued by the 
Society, may be consulted for further information. 
For the sake of convenience the areas are 
arranged into four divisions, covering all the 
ground with the exception of Brussels, which 
is ably dealt with by Mr. M. H. Spielmann in 


Charlotte Brontif : a Centenary Memorial 

another part of this volume. These arc as 
follows : — 

The Haworth Country, " Shirley " Coun- 
try, Cowan Bridge and Kirkby Lonsdale, 
and Hathersage. 

Haworth Country 

If we draw, say on the one-inch ordnance 
map, a line cutting through Slcipton, Colnc, 
Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Bradford, Keighley, 
and thence back to Skipton, we shall roughly 
enclose the area made classic ground by Jane 
Eyre and fVuthering Heights, and which will 
ever remain sacred as the land wherein the 
Bronte family passed the greater part of their 
lives ; for within it lie Thornton, where Char- 
lotte, Emily, Anne, and Bran well were born, and 
Haworth, where all except Anne are buried. 

The greater part consists of the moorland ridge 
which separates the West-Riding from Lanca- 
shire, and which happily has changed little in 
aspect since the Bronte days. If the reader could 
stand on the western side of the Nab, a bold 
escarpment of millstone grit which dominates 
the Worth Valley at a height of 1,450 feet 
above the sea-level, he would be able to take 
in with one sweep of the eye the whole of 
the moorland tract which surrounds the Bronte 
home. Beyond the reaches of heather stretching 



^ 4/ 

'^1^1* ^L 


A Bronte Itinerary 

away to the west are Boulsworth and Pendle 
Hill. On the north-west the Keighley moors 
rise in brown masses to the Lancashire border, 
while the suave contours of Rombald's Moor 
fill up the view on the north. Southward, the 
eye ranges along those billowy hills of brown 
and purple which roll away into Derbyshire and 
end in the magnificent mass of Kinder Scout. 

Readers familiar with Jane Eyre will remember 
with what a loving hand the moorlands are de- 
scribed in the twenty-eighth chapter and other 
portions of the book, but Emily's feeling to- 
wards them, as revealed in Wuihering Heights^ was 
nothing less than a passion. Charlotte says of 
her that " she had a particular love for them ; 
there is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of 
fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering 
lark or linnet, but reminds me of her." 

Those who wish to explore this region should 
take train to Keighley, which is on the Midland 
main line — nine miles from Bradford and six- 
teen miles from Leeds. From thence a branch 
line runs up the Worth Valley to Haworth, 
which is approached from the station by a steep 
rise of half a mile. At the top of the tortuous, 
narrow street are situated the Black Bull Inn 
and the Bronte Museum, and within a short 
distance the Church and Vicarage. The inn, 
too much frequented by the unfortunate Branwell, 
contains a replica of the chair in which he was 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

wont to sit on these occasions. Immediately 
opposite is the Bronte Museum, wherein will be 
found many interesting memorials of the family. 
With the exception of the tower, the whole of 
the old church was pulled down and a new build- 
ing erected between 1879 and 1881. Within 
lie the remains of all the members of the family 
except Anne, who was buried at Scarborough. 
A Bronte memorial tablet is placed on a wall 
in the old tower, and in the south aisle of the 
church is a stained-glass window in memory of 
the Brontes, placed there by an American citizen. 
The Bronte grave lies at the south end of the 
communion-rail, and is marked by a brass tablet 
bearing the names of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, 
Visitors should not omit to inspect the registers 
containing entries relating to members of the 

The Vicarage, standing immediately behind the 
church, remains unchanged, except that an addi- 
tional wing has been built since the time it was 
occupied by the Rev. Patrick Bronte. 

After inspecting these places the visitor will 
now be free to wander on the moor lying west 
of the village. Proceeding along West Lane the 
moor road leading past the cemetery comes into 
view, and if this be followed a distance of 2| 
miles to the waterfall he will get a typical 
example of West- Riding moorland scenery. On 
the left are the Haworth and Stanbury Moors, 






.... ^ . 

\ V 

■ ) 


A Bronte Itinerary 

and to the right is the Sladen Valley, across which 
the village of Stanbury can be seen perched on 
the hill-top. This is the " Vale of Gimmerton " 
described in Wuthering Heights. When nearing 
the waterfall the path slopes down the valley side 
to the Sladen Beck, into which the stream runs 
from the fall. Here v/ill be seen a stone foot- 
bridge, and also a large boulder known as 
Charlotte Bronte's chair. 

A mile and a half west from this point rises 
Withen's Height, 1,500 feet above the sea, on 
the eastern slope of which stands a small farm- 
house which local tradition identifies as "Vs^uther- 
ing Heights." The situation may be that 
described by Emily, but the house itself bears no 
resemblance to that of the story ; the probability 
being in favour of a composition suggested by 
High Sunderland, near Halifax and Ponden 
House. The latter is situated three miles from 
Haworth, near the road leading from that place 
to Colne. It is a seventeenth-century structure 
built by the Heatons of Ponden, and was often 
visited by the Bronte sisters. Still following 
this road, which now begins to rise rapidly up 
to the moors, we shall have an opportunity 
of visiting Wycoller Hall, 6^ miles from 
Haworth. This is the Ferndean Manor of Jane 
Eyre. It is situated in Wycoller village, the 
nearest approach to which is by a rough track 
branching to the left from the road about a 


charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

quarter of a mile before reaching Top of Heather 
Inn. The building is now in ruins, and was built 
in the latter part of the sixteenth century by a 
member of the Cunliffe family. 

From Keighley the visitor can proceed to 
Stonegappe, the Gateshead Hall of Jane Eyre^ 
where the early action of the story takes place, 
and where Charlotte acted as governess in 1839. 
It is a substantial building situated about two miles 
west of Kildwick station, which is on the Midland 
main line five miles north-west of Keighley. 

The village of Thornton, four miles west of 
Bradford, is now included within the boundary 
of this city. The house in which the Bronte 
children were born is situated in the Market Street, 
nearly opposite the Mechanics' Institute. It is 
now used as a house and shop, but during the 
Rev. Patrick Bronte's sojourn it served as the 
Vicarage. There is a tablet on the wall indicating 
its connection with the family. The Old Church 
where the Rev. Patrick Bronte officiated is now 
in ruins; it lies on the left of the road just before 
entering the village, which may be reached by 
tram-car from the city. 

The "Shirley" Country 

The locality in which the action of Shirley took 
place has greatly altered since Charlotte Bronte's 
day. It is known as the " Heavy Woollen 



&c*ie.: I mile to j Inch 

Teikce p. 31I, 

A Bronte Itinerary 

District," for it is now the centre of the textile 
industry devoted to the production of cloth 
and blankets. In the early part of last century 
the mills were sparsely scattered in a smiling 
landscape : to-day the area is teeming with large 
factories and populous villages, but although 
the landscape has suffered from this industrial 
development, it still retains much of the charm 
of the earlier days. 

The town of Heckmondwike, seven miles 
from Bradford, lies about the centre of the 
district, but for the purpose of a circular tour 
it will be best to alight at Drighlington station 
on the Great Northern line, from whence a field 
path leads down to Oakwell Hall, which is the 
" Fieldhead " of the story, the distance being 
half a mile. It is a good example of the West- 
Riding type of manor-house, and was built 
in 1583 by one Henry Batt. The building is 
minutely described in Shirley. Half a mile 
farther is the village of Birstall (Briarfield). 
Like that of Haworth, the church existing in 
Charlotte Bronte's time has been demolished 
with the exception of the tower, and replaced 
by a new structure. The Rev. W. Margetson 
Heald, vicar from 1801 to 1836, was the 
prototype of the Rev. Cyril Hall. Close by 
stands " The Rydings," where Miss Ellen Nussey 
lived when Charlotte first knew her, and where 
the author was a frequent visitor between 1832 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

and 1837. The exterior answers to the descrip- 
tion of Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, hut it is 
fairly certain that Norton Conyers, near Ripon, 
served as a picture of the interior of Rochester's 
mansion. From Birstall the visitor should 
proceed to Gomersal, lying half a mile farther 
west, where Red House (Briarmains) is situated. 
This was the residence of Joshua Taylor, a 
sturdy and enterprising manufacturer, who 
figures in the story as Hiram Yorke. His two 
daughters, Mary and Martha (Rose and Jessie 
Yorke), were Charlotte's school companions at 
Roe Head. Close by Red House is a joiner's 
shop which was formerly a dissenting place of 
worship, and it was from this building that 
the author heard the weird groanings and 
chantings described in the ninth chapter of the 

By following the road from Gomersal to 
Heckmondwike for a distance of ij miles 
Heald's Hall will be reached. This was the 
residence of the Rev. Hammond Roberson 
(Rev. Matthewson Helstone) who kept a 
boarding-school there in Charlotte Bronte's 
time. About a mile to the west of this 
place is Liversedge Church, built at Mr. 
Roberson's own expense, and of which he was 
vicar. A quarter of a mile beyond this stands 
the house where the Rev. Patrick Bronte lodged 
when appointed to the living of Hartshead in 




* K 

A Bronte Itinerary 

1 8 1 1 , and where his daughters Maria and 
Elizabeth were born. Going still farther west 
for a mile in the direction of Hightown, the 
road takes a sharp bend to the south towards 
Hartshead Church, which is three-quarters of a 
mile from Hightown village. The structure pos- 
sesses a fine Norman porch, and other remains 
of this period are to be found in the chancel. 
This is the Nunnely Church of the story. 
PVom the churchyard can be seen that extensive 
prospect as described in the twelfth chapter of 
the book. Roehead, the school where Charlotte 
attended from 1831 to 1835, is reached by 
passing through Hartshead village for a mile 
on the road to Mirfield. Miss Wooller, then 
the mistress, figures as Mrs. Prior in the story. 

CowAN Bridge and Kirkby Lonsdale 

This locality is associated with the trying 
school experiences of the Bronte children, so 
graphically described in Mrs. Gaskell's " Life," 
and which are reproduced with such painful 
fidelity in the early chapters of Jane Eyre. 

To those who approach the district by the 
Midland Railway, Ingleton will be found a 
convenient starting-point, as conveyances can be 
hired for a circular tour to Tunstall Church, 
Kirkby Lonsdale, Casterton, Cowan Bridge and 
back again to Ingleton. The road passes through 

321 X 

Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

Burton, 2 J miles from Ingleton. Three miles 
beyond, Thurland Castle is reached, and a mile 
farther stands Tunstall Church, near the river 
Lune. This is the Brocklebridge Church of 
Jane Eyre. The following passage from the 
story describes the experiences of the pupils 
of Lowood School at this place : " We had 
to walk two miles to Brocklebridge Church, 
where our patron officiated. We set out 
cold, we arrived at the church colder; during 
morning service we became almost para- 
lysed. Tt was too far to return for dinner, and 
an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the 
same penurious proportion observed in our 
ordinary meals, was served round between the 
services. At the close of the afternoon service 
we returned by an exposed and hilly road, where 
the bitter wintry wind, blowing over a range 
of snowy summits to the north, almost flayed 
the skin from our faces." 

The room where the children had their mid- 
day meal is immediately over the church porch. 
From Tunstall the road now runs due north to 
Kirkby Lonsdale, a distance of 3^ miles. This 
place, the Lowton of the story, is beautifully 
situated on the right bank of the Lune. The 
church, with its architectural features of Norman 
date, is well worth a visit. The view up the 
Lune Valley from the churchyard was considered 
by Ruskin to be one of the finest in England. 


A Bronte Itinerary 

From here the visitor will proceed to Casterton, 
crossing the river by the famous Devil's Bridge, 
and passing Casterton Hall, which lies on the left 
of the road a quarter of a mile before reaching the 
village. This was the residence of the Rev. Carus 
Wilson (Rev. Mr. Brocklehurst), who took an 
active part in the management of Cowan Bridge 
Clergy Daughters' School during the Bronte 
period. The school was removed to Casterton in 
1833, and since that time has done excellent educa- 
tional work. There is accommodation for 112 
girls. Leaving Casterton the road now runs 
south, intersecting the track of the Roman road at 
Kirkby Lonsdale railway station, and from thence 
south-east to Cowan Bridge, the Lowood of 
Jane Eyre. The Leek Beck runs through the 
village, which is i\ miles from Casterton. The 
old school was close to the bridge, but only a 
part of the original premises remains. This 
consists of two long, bow-windowed cottages, 
formerly used by the teachers, and where the 
school kitchen was situated. The schoolrooms 
and dormitories are not now in existence. 
It was opened in 1824 for the purpose 
of providing an inexpensive education for the 
daughters of poor clergymen, who paid part of 
the cost, the remainder being provided by sub- 
scriptions. On the gable-end facing the road a 
tablet is fixed, indicating the connection of the 
Brontes with the institution. 


Charlotte Bronte : a Centenary Memorial 

The tour is completed on returning to 
Ingleton, four miles from Cowan Bridge. 
Visitors making Kirkby Lonsdale a centre can 
go round by Tunstal, Cowan Bridge, and 
Caster ton, or vice-versa. 


It was not until 1882 that this place began 
to be associated with the village of Morton in 
Ja^e EyrCy and even then there was no direct 
evidence in support of the conjecture. The 
matter was settled, however, by Mr. Clement 
Shorter in his Charlotte Bronte and her Circle^ 
published in 1896. It is therein recorded that 
Charlotte spent three weeks at this place in 
the summer of 1845 with her friend Miss 
Nussey, whose brother became vicar of Hather- 
sage in 1844, and there can be no doubt that 
Charlotte had this district in mind when she 
described the village of Morton and the sur- 
rounding moorlands. Mr. J. J. Stead's article 
on Hathersage in Part IV of the Bronte Society's 
Transactions should be consulted by those who 
intend to visit this interesting locality. 

The village is on the Dore and Chinley 
branch of the Midland Railway, and may be 
approached from Sheffield (12 miles) or from 
Manchester (30 miles). It is beautifully situated 
in the Derwent Valley, and is surrounded by 


A Bronte Itinerary 

moorland very similar to that in the Haworth 
district. The visitor should see the church, the 
burial-place of the Eyre family, whose name 
suggested the title of the novel. Here Robin 
Hood's Little John is supposed to be burled. 
Close by is the Vicarage, mentioned in the fol- 
lowing passage : " In crossing a field I saw the 
church spire before me ; I hastened towards it. 
Near the church, and in the middle of a garden, 
stood a well-built though small house, which I 
had no doubt was the Parsonage." The house 
has, however, been enlarged since Charlotte 
Bronte's time. 

The home of the Rivers family. Moor House, 
has been identified in a building called Moor 
Seats, situated three-quarters of a mile from the 
village, and lies not far from the edge of the 
moor. ^ 

In the romantic description of Jane Eyre's 
flight from Thornfield Hall she leaves the 
coach on the road leading across the open moors 
at Whitcross. This would be on the high-road 
from Sheffield which Charlotte and Miss Nussey 
traversed on their visit to Hathersage in 1845. 

" Mr. Oliver's grand Hall in Morton Vale " 
is easily recognized in Brookfield Manor, an 
ancient mansion situated in a fine park about 
a mile to the north of the village. 



^gnn Grey, publication of, 2 1 5 

Arnold, Matthew — 

Meeting with Charlotte Bronte, 35 
Poem on " Haworth Churchyaril," 

•* Bell, Currer," Identity revealed, 31, 

*' Bell, Currer, Ellis and Acton," 

poems by, 31, 71 
Benson, A. C, Charlotte Bronte, a 

personal sketch, 57 
Birstall, 319, 320 
Blackstock, W. de W., 148 
Boulsworth, 315 
Bradford, 314 
Bradford, Centenary address at, by 

Mrs. Humphry Ward, 1 5 
" Bretton, Dr. John," see Smith, George 
"Briarfield," of Shirley, 319 
" Briarmain's," of Shirley, 320 
Brigg, Sir John, President of Bronte 

Society, ii8, 120, 144, 147 
Brigg, J.J., 147 

" Brocklebridge," of yane £yre, 322 
" Brocklehurst, Rev. Mr.," 323 
Bronti:, Anne, 67 

As poet, 75 

Last lines, 75 
Bronte, Charlotte — 

As romantic, 23, 49 

Birth, IS, 57, 65 

Centenary addresses, 15, 65 

Death, 57 

Bronti*, Cliarlotte [continued)^ 
In Brussels, 60, 83 
In London, 209 
In Manchester, 66 
Irish origin, 52 
Meeting with Arnold, 35 
Meeting with Thackeray, 237 
Novels, comparison with Dickens 

anil Thackeray, 59 
Personal sketch, 57 
Place in nineteenth century fiction, 


School life at Cowan Bridge, 321 

School life at Roehead, 19 

Some thoughts on, 15 

Word on, 4 1 
Bronte, Elizabeth, 15, 67, 321 
Bronte, Emily, in Brussels, 60 

Poetic gift, 20, 75 

Power of transmutation, 26 
Bronte, Maria, 15, 67, 321 
Bronte, Mrs. Maria, 15 
Bronte, Rev. Patrick, 70 

Death, 67 

Eccentricity, 70 
Bronti-, Patrick Branwell, 67, 219 
Bronto family portraits, i 30 
Bronte Sisters — 

As artists and prophets, 287 

Charlotte and f.mily, a comparison 
and a contrast, 175 

Celtic origin, 22, 25, 29, 37 

Juvenile writings of, 18, 132, 146 

See also Bell 



Bronte- Heger letters in Timts, 95 
Bronte bibliography, 135 

Birthplace, 318 

Itinerary, 313 

Museum, 121, 128, 315 

Novels, foreign translations, 136 

Persons and places of, 141 

Society, origin, 118, 123 

Society story of, 1 1 3 
Brookfield Manor, 325 
Brussels, Charlotte Bronte in, 83 

Heger Pensionnaf, 71,85 
Burton, 322 

Casterton, 32! 

Centenary address at Haworth, by 
Bishop Welldon, 65 
Acidress at Bradford, by Mrs. 
Humphry Ward, 15 
Chadwick, Mrs. Ellis H., 84, 145 
Chesterton, G. K., 136 

On Charlotte Bronte as a romantic, 

Clergy Daughters' School, Cowan 

Bridge, 323 
Cockshott, Miss, 148 
Colne, 314 
"Cottage Poems," of Rev. Patrick 

Bronte, 70 
Cory, W. J., visit to Haworth, 168 

Impressions of yane Eyre, 170 
Cowan Bridge, 17, 19, 321 
Crewe, Marquis of, see Houghton, 

Curates in Shirley, 27 

Day, C, 148 

Dimnet, E., 137 

«♦ Emma," see " Last Sketch ' 
^yre family, 325 

" Fern<lean Manor," of ^ane Eyre, 

Field, W. T., 122, 130, 147 
"Fieldhead," of Shirley, 319 
Fitzgerald, Edward, 22 
Fotheringham, J., 145 

Galloway, F. C, 147 

Garnett, Richard, Place of Charlotte 

Bronte in Nineteenth Century 

Fiction, 151 
Ciskell, Margaret Emily (" Meta "), 


Gaskell, Mrs., 17, j8, 66, 71 
"Gateshead Hall," of Jane Eyre, 318 
Gomersal, 320 
Gosse, Edmund, A Word on Charlotte 

Bronte, 41 
Greenwood, J. F., 141, 147 

Haldane, Lord, 145 

Halifax, 314 

«' Hall, Rev. Cyril," 319 

Hartshead, 320 

Hathersage (" Morton " of Jane Eyre), 

140, 143' 324 
Haworth, 315 

Centenary adilress at, by Bishop 
Welldon, 65 

Parsonage, 69, 316 
" Haworth Churchyard," Arnold's 

poem on, 68 
Heald, Rev.W. M., 319 
Heald's Hall, 320 
Hebden Bridge, 314 
Heckmondwikc, 319 
Heger Family, 28, 83-96 

Pemionnat, 92 -96 
Heger-Bronte letters in Times, 95 
" Helstone, Rev. M.," 320 
High Sunderland, 317 
Hightown, 321 



Moagkton Lord (Marqais of Crewe), 
Preairfent of Bronte Society, 144 

togleton, j2( 

Itinerary of Bronte noveU, 313 

yane Eyrt begun, 7Z 
Publication of, 58, 2i6 
Second edition dedicated to Thac- 
keray, 76 
Juvenile writing* of the Bronte «i»ter«, 
18,132, 146 

Keighlcy, 514, 318 
Key worth, Rev. T., 140 
Kildwick, 318 
Kirkby Lonsdale, 321 

•* La»t Sketch " ("Emma"), in Ctrn^ 

hill Magazine^ 76 
Lee, P. F., 141 
Lee, Sir Sidney, Charlotte Bronte in 

London, 209 
Lewes, George Henry, 23, 185 
Liversedge church, 320 
London, Charlotte Bronte in, 209 
'* Lowood School," of Jane Eyre, 322 
" Lowton," of Jane Eyre, 322 
Luddite agitation, 78 

Maedonald, Fredcricka, 84 

Maeterlinck, M., 137 

Manchester, visit of Charlotte Bronte 

to, 66 
" Meta," iee Gaskell, M. E. 
*' Mistress of tlic Disagreeable," 22 
** Moor House," of Jane Eyre, 325 
Moor seats, 325 
Moors, Spirit of, 251 
Morton, tee Hathersage 
Mossman, F. A. T,, 147, 14$ 

Newboult, A., 147 

Ncwbf, T. C, H7 
Nichollt, Rev. A. B., 131 
Nicoll, Sir W. R., 145 
Norton Conyeri, 320 
•' Nunnely," of Shirley, 321 
Nusiejr, Elten, 33, nS, 132, 14^, 
3»9. 324 

Oakwelt Halt, 319 

Peel, F., 122 

Pendle Hill, 315 

Place-names of Bronte novels, see 

Itinerary, 313-325 
" Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Actoit 

Bell," 31, 71. 
Ponden House, 317 
Priestley, Sir William, 142 
" Prior, Mrs.," 321 
Prafesur, Rejection ef, 72, 215 

Red House, 320 

Reid, Sir T. Wemyss, 144 

Richmond, George, Portrait of dxar" 

lotte Bronte, 169 
Ritchie, Lady, 240 
"Rivers" Family, 325 
Roberson, Rev. H., 320 
Robertshaw, W., 147 
Roehead School, 18, 32! 
Romantic, Charlotte Bronte as, 23, 49 
Rombald's Moor, 315 
"Rydings" of Shirley, 319 

Saintsbury, G., 14$ 
Scruton, W., 122, 142 
Seccombe, T,, 145 
Selincourt, E. de, (4$ 
Shirley, 303-4 

Country, 141, 31S 

Curates of, 27 

Luddite agitation, 78 



Shorter, Clement K., S4, 119 

Skipton, 314 

Smith, George, marriage of, 244 
Death of, 245 

Meets Charlotte Bronte, 214 
Prototype of ♦'Dr. John Bretton," 
32, 225-35 

Smith, Mrs. George, 33 

Smith, Reginald, 34 

Snowden, J. K., Brontes at artist* 
and prophets, 287 

Spielmann, M. H., Charlotte Bronte 
in Brussels, 83 

Stanbury, 316 

Stead, J. J., 122, 140, 147, 148 

Stonegappe, 318 

Stuart, J. A. E., 122 

Siitcliffe, Halliwell, Spirit of the moors, 

Taylor, Joshua, 320 

Taylor, Mary, 18, 19, 21 

Ttnar.t of Wildjtll Hall published, 217 

Thackeray, W. M., meetings with 

Charlotte Bronte, 237-241 
Dedication of Jant Eyrt to, 76 
•' Thornfield Hall " of Jant Eyrt, 43, 

320, 325 
Thornton, 65, 314, 318 
Thurland Castle, 322 
Timesy Bronte-Hcger letters in, 95 
Tunstall, 321 
Turner, J. Horsfall, 118, 122, 147 

Unwiw, S. P., 148 

"Vale of Cimmerton"of fVutktring 
Htighn, -ii-; 

Vaughan, C. E., Charlotte and Emily 
Bronte ; a comparison and a con- 
trast, 175 

Villettt, 23, 24, 84, 86, 93 
Publication of, 242 

Ward, Mrs. Humphry, A Foreword, t 
Centenary address at Bradford, 15 
President of Bronte Society, 144 

Watkinson, J., 148 

Welldon, Bishop, Centenary address 
at Haworth, 65 

Wellington, Duke of, as Bronte hero, 
16, 19, 77 

Whitcross, 325 

Williams, Smith, 21, 215 

Wilson, Rev. Carus, 323 

Wise, J. T., 134 

Withen's Height, 317 

Wood, Butler, Ji8, 120, [122, 135, 
«47. 148 
Bronte itinerary, 313 

Wooler, Miss, 321 

Worth Valley, 314 

Wroot, H. E, 84 

Story of the Bronte Society, 1 1 3 

ffuthtrifig Htightt, place-name, 3 1 7 
Publication of, 215 

Wycoller, 280, 317 

Yates, W. W., ij8, 120, 122, 124, 

** Yorkc, Hiram," 320 




President : 
Mrs. Humphry Ward 

The objects of the Society are : — the publication 
of Transactions containing biographical, literary, 
and topographical contributions on the life and 
works of the members of the Bronte family ; and 
the preservation of literary, artistic, and personal 
memorials of the Brontes in the museum at 

The annual subscription, 3s. 6d., is due In 
advance on the i st ot January in each year. Life 
membership, two guineas. Members receive a 
copy of the yearly part of the Transactions, and 
are entitled to attend the meetings of the 
Society, together with free admission to the 
Bronte Museum. 

Those who desire to join the Society are re- 
quested to communicate with the Hon. Secretary, 
Mr. W. T. Field, Rockmount, Baildon, near 
Bradford, from whom any further information 
may be obtained. 

Printed in Great Britain by 





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